USS Woolsey (DD-77)

USS Woolsey (DD-77) was a Wickes class destroyer that sank in 1921 after being cut in half in a collision with a merchant ship.

The Woolsey was named after Melancthon Taylor Woolsey, a US naval officer who fought in the Tripolitan War, devised a code of signals then served in the Great Lakes during the War of 1812.

USS Woolsey (DD-77) sinking, 26 February 1921
USS Woolsey (DD-77) sinking
26 February 1921

USS Woolsey (DD-77) being launched, 17 September 1918
USS Woolsey (DD-77)
being launched,
17 September 1918

The Woolsey was built by the Bath Iron Works of Bath Maine. She was laid down on 1 November 1917, launched on 17 September 1918 (already painted in her dazzle camouflage) and commissioned on 30 September 1918 with Lt Commander Frederick V. McNair in command.

The first Woolsey (Destroyer No. 77) was named in honor of Commodore Melancthon Taylor Woolsey, and the second Woolsey (DD-437) commemorated both him and his son, Commodore Melancthon Brooks Woolsey.

The Woolsey entered service just in time to take part in the First World War. On 9 October she moved to New York to join the USS Virginia (BB-13) and she then crossed the Atlantic with the battleship, escorting Convoy HX-52. The convoy was handed over to British escorts on 22 October, and the Woolsey mved to Buncrana, on the northern coast of Ireland. She then sailed down the Irish Sea and on to the Azores, arriving on 30 October. From there she returned to New York (5 November) and was still there when the war ended.

Anyone who served on her between 6 October 1918 and 5 November 1918 qualified for the First World War Victory Medal.

In December 1918 the Woolsey departed from New York and joined the American Naval Forces Europe, based at Brest. She arrived at Brest on 20 December, and this marked the start of seven months operating around Europe. She was used as a ferry between Brest and Plymouth and Southhampton. On 11 March she was part of the force that escorted President Woodrow Wilson into Brest on the transport USS George Washington. In June 1919 she formed part of the escort for the President as he returned to the United States, again on the George Washington.

USS Woolsey (DD-77) at Brest, 29 June 1919
USS Woolsey (DD-77) at Brest, 29 June 1919

The Woolsey was then allocated to the Pacific Fleet, passing through the Panama Canal on 24 July on her way to Hawaii. She was then based at San Diego, before being placed out of commission on 31 May 1920. After an overhaul she was recommissioned on 20 October 1920, and returned to the Pacific Fleet. During this refit her aft 4in gun was moved from her fantail to the top of her aft deckhouse.

The Woolsey was sunk near Coiba Island, off the coast of Panama, early on 26 February 1921. The merchant vessel SS Steel Inventor collided with her, and the more lightweight destroyer was cut in half and sank. She was hit about two thirds of the way back from the bow. The survivors were rescued by the destroyer USS Aaron Ward (DD-132).

Displacement (standard)

1,160t (design)

Displacement (loaded)


Top Speed

35kts (design)
35.34kts at 24,610shp at 1,149t on trial (Wickes)


2 shaft Parsons turbines
4 boilers
24,200shp (design)


3,800nm at 15kts on trial (Wickes)
2,850nm at 20kts on trial (Wickes)

Armour - belt


 - deck



314ft 4in


30ft 11in

Armaments (as built)

Four 4in/50 guns
Twelve 21in torpedoes in four triple tubes
Two depth charge tracks

Crew complement



17 September 1918


30 September 1918

Sunk in accident

26 February 1921

U.S. Destroyers: An Illustrated Design History, Norman Friedmann . The standard history of the development of American destroyers, from the earliest torpedo boat destroyers to the post-war fleet, and covering the massive classes of destroyers built for both World Wars. Gives the reader a good understanding of the debates that surrounded each class of destroyer and led to their individual features.
cover cover cover

Books on the First World War | Subject Index: First World War

How to cite this article: Rickard, J (3 February 2017), USS Woolsey (DD-77) ,

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