Military Wiki
USS Leary (DD-158)
USS Leary (DD-158)
Career (US)
Namesake: Clarence F. Leary
Builder: New York Shipbuilding, Camden, New Jersey
Laid down: 6 March 1918
Launched: 18 December 1918
Commissioned: 5 December 1919
Recommissioned: 1 May 1930
Decommissioned: 29 June 1922
Fate: Sunk in battle, 24 December 1943
General characteristics
Class & type: Wickes-class destroyer
Displacement: 1,090 long tons (1,107 t)
Length: 314 ft (96 m)
Beam: 30.5 ft (9.3 m)
Draft: 12 ft (3.7 m)
Speed: 35 knots (65 km/h; 40 mph)
Complement: 176 officers and enlisted
Armament: 6 x 3" (76 mm) guns,
6 × 21" (533 mm) torpedo tubes,
2 × depth charge tracks,
1 × Y-gun

USS Leary (DD-158) was a Wickes-class destroyer in the United States Navy during World War II. She was named for Lieutenant Clarence F. Leary, posthumously awarded the Navy Cross in World War I.

Commissioned in 1919, she saw a number of fleet exercises and training cruises, as well as a brief period of decommissioning from 1922 to 1930. She was the first U.S. Navy ship to be equipped with sonar, and the first to detect a German ship with it. With the outbreak of World War II, she escorted a number of convoys to Iceland, the Caribbean, and west Africa to support the war effort, later being upgraded to serve as an antisubmarine warfare vessel. On 24 December 1943, while escorting Card through rough seas in the North Atlantic, she was torpedoed three times by German submarine U-275 and sank with the loss of 98 men.

Design and construction

Leary was one of 111 Wickes-class destroyers built by the United States Navy between 1917 and 1919. She, along with nine of her sisters, were constructed at New York Shipbuilding Corporation shipyards in Camden, New Jersey using specifications and detail designs drawn up by Bethlehem Steel.[1][2]

She had a standard displacement of 1,090 tonnes (1,070 long tons; 1,200 short tons) an overall length of 314 feet (96 m), a beam of 30 feet 6 inches (9.30 m) and a draught of 12 feet (3.7 m). On trials, Leary reached a speed of 35 knots (65 km/h; 40 mph). She was armed with four 4"/50 caliber guns, two 3"/23 caliber guns, and twelve 21-inch torpedo tubes. She had a regular crew complement of 176 officers and enlisted men.[3] She was driven by two Curtis steam turbines powered by four Yarrow boilers.[1]

Specifics on Leary's performance are not known, but she was one of the group of Wickes-class destroyers known unofficially as the 'Liberty Type' to differentiate them from the destroyers constructed from detail designs drawn up by Bath Iron Works, which used Parsons or Westinghouse turbines. The 'Liberty' type destroyers deteriorated badly in service, and in 1929 all 60 of this group were retired by the Navy. Actual performance of these ships was far below intended specifications especially in fuel economy, with most only able to make 2,300 nautical miles (4,300 km; 2,600 mi) at 15 knots (28 km/h; 17 mph) instead of the design standard of 3,100 nautical miles (5,700 km; 3,600 mi) at 20 knots (37 km/h; 23 mph).[1][4] The class also suffered problems with turning and weight.[5]

She was the first ship to be named for Clarence F. Leary. A subsequent USS Leary would be commissioned, this one a Gearing-class destroyer completed in 1945.[3]

Service history

Leary was laid down on 6 March 1918 and launched on 18 December 1918. She was sponsored by Mrs. Anne Leary, the mother of Clarence F. Leary. She was commissioned on 5 December 1919 under the command of Commander F. C. Martin.[3]

She departed Boston on 28 January 1920,[3] underwent her shakedown cruise in the Caribbean and then conducted training operations along the East Coast of the United States. In January 1921, she joined the Pacific Battle Fleet, and through February took part in a large-scale battle exercise off the coast of Peru. In March, Leary transited the Panama Canal and reported to the commander of Naval Station Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. She then was on station during bombing tests conducted by the U.S. Army Air Forces against naval targets, overseen by Billy Mitchell. She resumed her training exercises off the Caribbean until June 1922, when in accordance with the Washington Naval Conference, she was decommissioned at the Philadelphia Naval Yard.[6]

Recommissioned on 1 May 1930 with a home port in Newport, Rhode Island,[7] Leary alternated between the Pacific Fleet and the Atlantic Fleet, carrying out training maneuvers and taking part in several fleet problems.[6] After 1935, most of her time was taken up conducting training cruises for reserves and midshipmen.[3] In April 1937, she underwent a shipyard overhaul, including being equipped with a radar. Leary was the first U.S. navy vessel to be equipped with the device. In September 1939, Leary and Hamilton established a continuous patrol off the coast of New England against German U-Boats.[8] On 9 September 1941, she began escort missions to Iceland.[3] She was also the first to make contact with a German U-Boat, while escorting a British convoy in the North Atlantic on 9 November 1941.[9]

With the entry of the United States into World War II following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Leary undertook regular convoy escort duties.[9] After 26 February 1942, she spent a year escorting convoys from a mid-ocean meeting point to Icelandic ports. On 7 February 1943, she left for Boston and reassignment.[3] During this time, she was given a shipyard overhaul at Boston Navy Yard and converted into an anti-submarine warfare ship. On 1 March, she left Boston for Guantanamo Bay, and undertook anti-submarine exercises with R-5. She then resumed escort duty, and made several trips to Trinidad and several Caribbean ports.[3] Returning to New York on 25 June, she began escoring transatlantic convoys, and successfully escorted two of them through Aruba and to Algiers and Casablanca.[3] She later joined Task Group 21.41 under the command of Captain Arnold J. Isbell and escorting Card.[9]

On 24 December 1943, the task group was caught in a storm in the North Atlantic when at 01:58 in the morning, Leary made a ping on a U-Boat off her starboard bow. After her commander, James E. Kyes, ordered her to battle stations but before the destroyer could react, she was struck buy a G7es torpedo fired by German submarine U-275. The torpedo struck her starboard side and detonated in the after engine room, killing all of the men there and damaging both propeller shafts. She quickly developed a 20 degree list to starboard, and was unable to move in the heavy seas. Unbeknownst to the task group, a second German submarine, U-382 fired at Leary but missed. Soon after, Kyes ordered the crew to abandon ship. Two additional torpedoes from U-275 rocked the ship, and it rapidly sank, stern first.[9][8] She took 98 men with her, including Kyes. Survivors were picked up by her sister ship, Schenck.[10]

Leary received one battle star for her service in World War II. For his actions in ensuring the safety of his crew, Kyes was posthumously awarded the Navy Cross. The Gearing-class destroyer James E. Kyes was later named for him.[10]

Convoys escorted

Convoy Escort Group Dates Notes
HX 152 30 Sept-9 Oct 1941[11] from Newfoundland to Iceland prior to US declaration of war
ON 26 20-29 Oct 1941[12] from Iceland to Newfoundland prior to US declaration of war
ON 28 31 Oct-3 Nov 1941[12] from Iceland to Newfoundland prior to US declaration of war
HX 160 17-25 Nov 1941[11] from Newfoundland to Iceland prior to US declaration of war; 1st US RADAR detection of submarine
ON 41 4-10 Dec 1941[12] from Iceland to Newfoundland: war declared during convoy
HX 167 29 Dec 1941-7 Jan 1942[11] from Newfoundland to Iceland
ON 55 15-18 Jan 1942[12] from Iceland to Newfoundland
HX 175 MOEF group A4 15-23 Feb 1942[11] from Newfoundland to Iceland
SC 77 11–14 April 1942[13] Iceland shuttle
SC 79 21 April 1942[13] Iceland shuttle
SC 81 5 May 1942[13] Iceland shuttle
SC 84 17 May 1942[13] Iceland shuttle
ON 102 14–21 June 1942[12] from Iceland to United States
SC 99 12 Sept 1942[13] Iceland shuttle
SC 101 28-30 Sept 1942[13] Iceland shuttle
ON 140 19-24 Oct 1942[12] Iceland shuttle
SC 105 25-26 Oct 1942[13] Iceland shuttle
Convoy SC 107 5-7 Nov 1942[13] Iceland shuttle
SC 109 20-25 Nov 1942[13] Iceland shuttle
SC 110 2 Dec 1942[13] Iceland shuttle
ON 152 11-15 Dec 1942[12] Iceland shuttle
SC 112 16-19 Dec 1942[13] Iceland shuttle
ON 160 14-21 Jan 1943[12] Iceland shuttle
HX 223 22 Jan 1943[11] Iceland shuttle



  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Gardiner & Gray 1984, p. 124.
  2. Friedman 2003, p. 40.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 3.5 3.6 3.7 3.8 DANFS 1969, p. 78.
  4. Friedman 2003, p. 41.
  5. Friedman 2003, p. 46.
  6. 6.0 6.1 Parkin 2001, p. 194.
  7. Lubeski 2010, p. 93.
  8. 8.0 8.1 Lubeski 2010, p. 94.
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 9.3 Parkin 2001, p. 195.
  10. 10.0 10.1 Parkin 2001, p. 196.
  11. 11.0 11.1 11.2 11.3 11.4 "HX convoys". Andrew Hague Convoy Database. Retrieved 2011-06-19. 
  12. 12.0 12.1 12.2 12.3 12.4 12.5 12.6 12.7 "ON convoys". Andrew Hague Convoy Database. Retrieved 2011-06-19. 
  13. 13.00 13.01 13.02 13.03 13.04 13.05 13.06 13.07 13.08 13.09 13.10 "SC convoys". Andrew Hague Convoy Database. Retrieved 2011-06-21. 


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