US Navy Gun Destroyer 1945-88 – Fletcher class to Forrest Sherman class, Mark Stille

US Navy Gun Destroyer 1945-88 – Fletcher class to Forrest Sherman class, Mark Stille

New Vanguard 322

During the early decades of the Cold War the gun armed destroyer was the most numerous type of major combatant in the US Navy, simply because hundreds had been completed during the Second World War. 

Three of the five classes studied here (the Fletcher, Sumner and Gearing classes) were constructed during the Second World War in large numbers, with over 300 of the three designs build. Inevitably these ships would become the heart of the post-war destroyer force, with the least of the Gearing ships serving into the 1980s. New post-war construction of mainly gun armed destroyers was limited to the four ships of the Mitscher class and the eighteen of the Forrest Sherman class. 

The design chapter looks both at the original design of each class, and the most common modifications, such as the conversion of many wartime destroyers into dedicated anti-submarine warfare vessels (as DDEs). This section also covers the FRAM Program, which saw many of these older destroyers given an extensive re-build to extend their service life.

The brief Weapons chapter gives an overview of the main guns used on these ships, covering the main 5in and 3in guns, although only in a single page. Missiles and Torpedoes get one paragraph each, mainly because neither were really significant on these ships during the Codl War. Anti-submarine weapons get the biggest section, looking at the series of weapons that replaced the wartime depth charges and Hedgehog mortars. Sensors looks at post-war radar and sonar, again fairly briefly.

The service chapter again gives a pretty brief overview of where these destroyers were used. We start with a paragraph that lists the areas in which US destroyers earned battle stars and campaign ribbons, ranging from the Korean War to operations off Iran in the early 1980s. This is followed by sections on each class, starting with how many of them were damaged and where, and how many battle stars and campaign ribbons each type won in each campaign. This is a neat way of providing a useful overview of their service records in the limited space available.

The final chapter, looking at the individual Destroyer Classes, is by far the largest, taking up over half of the book. Here we get far more details on how each class was modified, so for the Fletcher class we get details of the SCB 74A modernization, DDE conversion, the very limited number that got FRAM work, and the default upgrade carried out on those ships that were recalled but not given any of the named upgrades (often this involved replacing older weapons with newer systems – 40mm and 20mm AA guns with 3in/50 gins for example). We also look at how many of each class were active over time. Each class gets a table listing all of the ships that servedin the Cold War, when they were recommissioned or commissioned, when and how they were modernised and their eventual fate.

The main focus of this book is on how the ships in these five classes were modified to cope with the changed demands of war in the Cold War period. This was a period in which the US Navy had no opponents with a significant surface fleet, so the focus was on anti-submarine and anti-aircraft abilities, and the bulk of the changes made were intended to improve these mainly older ships abilities to cope with the far more advanced submarines of the post-war period and the threat of much faster jet aircraft. The result is a useful guide to what these ships were, and how they were updated.

USN Cold War Destroyer Designs
USN Cold War Destroyer Weapons
USN Cold War Destroyer Sensors
Cold War Gun Destroyers at War and In Peace
The Destroyer Classes

Author: Mark Stille
Edition: Paperback
Pages: 48
Publisher: Osprey
Year: 2023

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