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Wickes-class destroyer
Wickes dd75.jpg
USS Wickes (DD-75)
Class overview
Name: Wickes class destroyer
Builders: Various
Operators: US flag 48 stars.svg United States
Royal Navy Ensign United Kingdom
Preceded by: Caldwell-class destroyer
Succeeded by: Clemson-class destroyer
Built: 1917–1921
In commission: 1918–1946 (USN)
Completed: 111
Lost: 9 sunk in battle
5 sunk as targets
7 others sunk or destroyed in other ways
Retired: 90 scrapped
General characteristics
Type: Destroyer
  • 1,154 tons (normal)
  • 1,247 tons (full load)
Length: 314 ft 4.5 in (95.82 m)
Beam: 30 ft 11.25 in (9.43 m)
Draught: 9 ft (2.74 m)
  • 4x 300 psi (2,100 kPa) unsuperheated boilers[1]
  • 2 Parsons turbines[1]
  • 24,610 hp (18,350 kW)
Speed: 35.3 knots (65.4 km/h)
Complement: 100 officers and enlisted
Notes: popularly known as Flush Deckers, Four Pipers, 1200-ton type

The Wickes-class destroyers (DD-75 to DD-185) were a class of 111 destroyers built by the United States Navy in 1917-1919. Along with the 6 preceding Caldwell-class and 156 subsequent Clemson-class destroyers, they formed the "flush-deck" or "four-stack" type. Only a few were completed in time to serve in World War I. While some were scrapped in the 1930s, the rest served through World War II. Most of these were converted to other uses. Some were transferred to the British Royal Navy, and a few of these were later transferred to the Soviet navy. All were scrapped within a few years after World War II.


The destroyer type was at this time a relatively new class of fighting ship for the U.S. Navy. The type arose in response to torpedo boats that had been developing from 1865, especially after the development of the self-propelled Whitehead torpedo.[2] During the Spanish-American War, it was realized that a torpedo boat destroyer was urgently needed to screen the larger warships, so much so that a special war plans board headed by Theodore Roosevelt issued an urgent report pleading for this type of ship.[3]

A series of destroyers had been built over the preceding years, designed for high smooth water speed, with indifferent results.[4] The results of these early destroyers was the appreciation of the need for true seakeeping and seagoing abilities.[5] As a result, the size of U.S. destroyer classes increased steadily, starting at 450 tons and rising to over 1,000 tons between 1905 and 1916.[6] The increase in destroyer size has never stopped, with the US Arleigh Burke-class destroyers now up to 10,800 tons full load. The need for hulls large enough for high speed and heavy seas performance saw the inclusion of both oil fuel and reduction geared steam turbines.[7]

A further need in the Navy was for scouting. There were few cruisers in the Navy, which was a fleet of battleships and destroyers, as no cruisers had been launched since 1908. A report of October 1915 by Captain Sims noted that the smaller destroyers used fuel far too quickly, and that war games showed the need for fast vessels with a larger radius of action.[8]

With World War I then in its second year and tensions between the U.S. and Germany increasing, the U.S. needed to expand its navy. The Naval Appropriation Act of 1916 called for a navy "second to none," capable of protecting both the Atlantic and Pacific coasts. The Act authorized 10 battleships, 6 Lexington-class battlecruisers, 10 Omaha-class scout cruisers, and 50 Wickes-class destroyers.[9]


The requirements of the new design were high speed and mass production. The development of submarine warfare during World War I created a requirement for destroyers in numbers that had not been contemplated before the war. A top speed of 35 knots (65 km/h) was needed for operation with the Lexington battlecruisers and Omaha cruisers.

The final design had a flush deck and four smokestacks. It was a fairly straightforward evolution of the preceding Caldwell class. General dissatisfaction with the earlier "1,000 ton" designs (Cassin and Tucker classes) led to the fuller hull form of the "flush deck" type. Greater beam and the flush deck provided greater hull strength. In addition, the Wickes class had 26,000 horsepower (19,000 kW) (5,000 more horsepower than the Caldwell class), providing an extra 5 knots (9.3 km/h).[10]

The extra power required an extra 100 tons of engine and reduction gears. The design included an even keel and near horizontal propeller shafts to minimize weight.

As construction was undertaken by ten different builders, there was considerable variation in the types of boilers and turbines installed to meet a guaranteed speed requirement. However, there were in essence two basic designs; one for the ships built by the Bethlehem Steel yards (including Union Iron Works) and another used by the remaining shipyards, which was prepared by Bath Iron Works.

The Wickes class proved to be short-ranged, and its bridge and gun positions were very wet. The fleet found that the tapered stern, which made for a nice depth charge deployment feature, dug into the water and increased the turning radius. The Clemson class added 100 tons of fuel tankage to improve operational range, but the issue of range was solved only with the development of underway replenishment in World War II.


The main armament was the same as the Caldwell class: 4 × 4"/50 caliber guns (102 mm) and 12 × 21" torpedo tubes (533 mm). While the gun armament was typical for destroyers of this period, the torpedo armament was larger than usual, in accordance with American practice at the time. A factor in the size of the torpedo armament was the General Board's decision to use broadside rather than centerline torpedo tubes.[11] This was due to the desire to have some torpedoes remaining after firing a broadside, and problems experienced with centerline mounts on previous classes with torpedoes striking the gunwales of the firing ship.[12] The Mark 8 torpedo was initially equipped, and alternate torpedoes were the subsequent Mark 11 (1926), Mark 12 (1928), and Mark 15 torpedoes (1938).[13]

Most ships carried a 3 inch 23 caliber (76 mm) anti-aircraft (AA) gun, typically just aft of the bow 4 inch gun. The original design called for two 1 pounder AA guns, but these were in short supply and the 3 inch gun was more effective.[14] Anti-submarine (ASW) armament was added during World War I. Typically, a single depth charge track was provided aft, along with a Y-gun depth charge projector forward of the aft deckhouse.[15]


8 ships of Wickes class destroyer, New York Shipbuilding Corporation, Camden, New Jersey, 1919.

The United States Congress authorized 50 destroyers in the 1916 Act. However, the realization of the scope of the U-boat campaign resulted in 111 being built. The ships were built at Bath Iron Works, Bethlehem Steel Corporation's Fore River Shipbuilding Company, Union Iron Works, Mare Island Navy Yard, Newport News Shipbuilding, New York Shipbuilding, and William Cramp and Sons. 267 Wickes and Clemson-class destroyers were built. This program was considered a major industrial achievement.[16] Production of these destroyers was considered so important that work on cruisers and battleships was delayed to allowed completion of the program.[17] The first Wickes class was launched on 11 November 1917, with four more by the end of the year. Production peaked in July 1918, when 17 were launched - 15 of them on 4 July.[18]

The program continued after the war ended: 21 of the Wickes class (and all but 9 of the Clemson class) were launched after the armistice on 11 November 1918. The last of the Wickes class was launched on 24 July 1919.[18] This program left the U.S. Navy with so many destroyers that no new destroyers were built until 1932.[19]


In U.S. service

A few Wickes class were completed in time for service in World War I, some with the battle fleet, some on convoy escort duty; none were lost. DeLong (DD-129) ran aground in 1921; Woolsey (DD-77) sank after a collision in 1922.

Many Wickes-class destroyers were converted to other uses, starting as early as 1920, when 14 were converted to light minelayers. Six of these were scrapped in 1932, and replaced by five additional conversions. Another four were converted to auxiliaries or transports at that time. During the 1930s, 23 more were scrapped, sold off, or sunk as targets. This was mostly due to a blanket replacement of 61 Yarrow-boilered destroyers 1930-31, as these boilers wore out quickly in service. Flush-deckers in reserve were commissioned as replacements.[20]

Starting in 1940, many of the remaining ships were also converted. Sixteen were converted to high-speed transports with the designation APD. Eight were converted to destroyer-minesweepers (DMS). Most ships remaining in service during World War II were rearmed with dual-purpose 3"/50 caliber guns (76 mm) for better anti-aircraft protection. The AVD seaplane tender conversions received 2 guns; the APD transport, DM minelayer, and DMS minesweeper conversions received 3 guns, and those retaining destroyer classification received 6.[21] Also, half of the torpedo tubes were removed in those retained as destroyers; all torpedoes were removed from the others. Nearly all had half the boilers removed, for increased fuel and range or to accommodate troops, reducing their speed to 25 knots (46 km/h).[21]

The low-angle Mark 9 4" guns removed from these ships were transferred to defensively equipped merchant ships for anti-submarine protection.[22]

Thirteen Wickes class were lost during World War II in U.S. service. The remainder were scrapped in 1945 to 1947.

In foreign navies

Twenty two Wickes-class destroyers were transferred to the Royal Navy, and five to the Royal Canadian Navy, in the Destroyers for Bases Agreement. Most of these ships were refitted much like the U.S. destroyers and used as convoy escorts, but some were used very little and were not considered worth refitting. Buchanan (DD-131), renamed HMS Campbeltown, was disguised as a German vessel and expended as a blockship in the St Nazaire Raid. (The Buchanan involved in the Japanese surrender formalities was a later ship.) One further destroyer was sunk; the remainder were scrapped in 1944 to 1947.

In 1944 seven were transferred by Britain to the Soviet navy, in place of Italian ships claimed by the USSR after Italy's surrender. These vessels all survived the war, and were scrapped in 1949 to 1952.[18]


Some of these ships are also referred to as Little class, Lamberton class, or Tattnall class to signify the yard that built them and to note the slight design differences from the Bath Iron Works ships. Some of these non-Bath Iron Works units were actually commissioned prior to the lead ship, Wickes. Ward's keel was laid 15 May 1918 and was launched only 17 days later on 1 June 1918.[18]

See also


  • Campbell, John (1985). Naval Weapons of World War Two. Naval Institute Press. ISBN 0-87021-459-4. 
  • Morison, Samuel Eliot (1962). History of United States Naval Operations in World War II, Supplement and General Index. Little, Brown and Company. 
  • Silverstone, Paul H. (1970). U.S. Warships of World War I. Ian Allan. 
  • Silverstone, Paul H. (1968). U.S. Warships of World War II. Doubleday and Company. 
  • Friedman, Norman. (2004). U.S. U.S. Destroyers An Illustrated Design History. Naval Institute Press. ISBN 1-5570-442-3. 
  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 Thomas, Donald I., CAPT USN "Recommissioning Destroyers, 1939 Style" United States Naval Institute Proceedings September 1979 p.71
  2. Friedman, p.8
  3. Friedman p.11
  4. Friedman p.14-15
  5. Friedman p.15
  6. Friedman p.19-29
  7. Friedman p.28-29
  8. Friedman, p.34
  9. Wickes- and Clemson-class flush-deck destroyers
  10. Friedman, p.37-39
  11. Friedman, p. 24,34
  12. Friedman, p. 24
  13. "Torpedo History: Torpedo Mk12". Retrieved 16 Oct 2013. 
  14. Friedman, p. 44
  15. Friedman, p. 45
  16. Friedman, p.40
  17. Friedman, p.41
  18. 18.0 18.1 18.2 18.3 Silverstone, Paul H. (1970). U.S. Warships of World War I. Ian Allan. pp. 118–124. 
  19. Friedman, p.47
  20. Flush-decker page, retrieved 16 Oct 2013
  21. 21.0 21.1 Silverstone, Paul H. (1968 pages=112, 212, 215, 276, 303). U.S. Warships of World War II. Doubleday and Company. 
  22. Campbell 1985 p.143

External links

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