USS Downes (DD-375)
Multirole Destroyer Warship
Commissioned in 1937, USS Downes DD-375 served in the destroyer role for U.S. Navy during World War 2 - decommissioned twice in her storied career ending in 1947.
Authored By: Staff Writer | Last Edited:
World War 2 (1939-1945) made veterans of many fighting ships and their crews. USS Downes (DD-375) was one such participant of the conflict and one to survive the whole of the war while earning four Battle Stars along the way. She was (originally) laid down by the Norfolk Naval Shipyard and launched on April 22nd, 1936 before being commissioned (for the first time) on January 15th, 1937. With the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii in December of 1941, the United States of American officially committed to Total War against the Axis powers.
USS Downes was built to the Mahan-class destroyer standard - a group numbering eighteen ships. These vessels sported a length of 341.2 feet, a beam of 35.5 feet and a draught of 10.6 feet while displacing 2,100 tons under full load. As built, armament consisted of 5 x 5" /38 caliber (127mm) main guns, 12 x 21" torpedo tubes, 4 x 0.50 caliber heavy machine guns and 2 x depth charge racks (over stern). Propulsion power was from 4 x boilers feeding 2 x General Electric steam turbines at 46,000 horsepower driving 2 x shafts.
USS Downes undertook standard training exercises in Caribbean waters before traversing the Panama Canal towards Pearl which became her home port in April 1940. As such she was present during the Japanese attack of December 7th, 1941 but was drydocked with others when the assault occurred. Despite raging fires, flooding and constant strafing from enemy warplanes, her crew took the fight to the enemy by way of her onboard air-defense weaponry. Despite the valiant effort to repel the attackers, the harbor lay in ruins and Downes lay badly damaged - so much so that she was written off on June 20th, 1942.
Her usable machinery was reconstituted in a new warship - laid down by Mare Island Naval Shipyard - as USS Downes. This origin have her clear access to the Pacific Theater where her capabilities would be much appreciated in the war against the Japanese Empire and her first notable actions were as convoy escort, blockader and patroller - particularly against enemy submarines. She took part in the Marianas Islands campaign (again as an escort) and was used in patrols where and when needed. Her guns were operated in anger during the Tinian landings and she moved on to shell enemy positions on Marcus Island thereafter. Then came support for the amphibious landings at Leyte (Philippines) and she was given an overhaul at Pearl before the end of 1944. During this period, the warship was outfitted with the Mk 37 Gun Fire Control System (FCS) and two Mk 51 Gun Directors while losing one of her 5" installations. 4 x 20mm Oerlikon AA guns were added for improved defense against aircraft and four K-gun depth charge projectors complemented the existing twin depth charge racks.
In March of 1945 she was back in service and used in the convoy escort role once more and took part in the initiative at Guam before moving on to Iwo Jima. This marked her final actions in the war as she was recalled back stateside and used as a transport for service personnel returning home for the final time. She ended her sailing days At Norfolk, Virginia in November of 1945 and was decommissioned from USN service on December 17th of that year. Her stripped hulk was sold for scrapping in November of 1947 which put an official, rather unceremonious, end to this storied warship.