The Aylwin-class was a destroyer group for the United States Navy (USN) built just prior to the American involvement in World War 1 (1914-1918). The group numbered just four ships and included lead-ship USS Aylwin (DD-47) herself and sisters USS Parker (DD-48), USS Benham (DD-49) and USS Balch (DD-50). The class was a primary part of the USN rearmament program of the pre-World War 1 period which included no fewer than five 2nd Generation, 1,000-ton displacement, "four-stack" destroyers. Aylwin-class ships were built alongside the similar Cassin-class - which also numbered four.
USS Balch, the focus of this article, was laid down by William Cramp & Sons (Philadelphia) on May 7th, 1912 and launched on December 21st of that year. She was formally commissioned on March 26th, 1914 and served in the USN until 1922. When launched, the vessel was originally known as USS Balch (Destroyer No.50). Her designation was changed on November 1st, 1933.
The Aylwin-class was based in the Cassin-class and, therefore, shared many similarities with this cousin design. Their overall lines and armament was essentially left untouched, the latter consisting of 4 x 4" (102mm) /50 caliber main guns and 4 x 18" (450mm) twin torpedo tubes. Aboard Balch was a crew of about 101 led by five officer-level personnel. Dimensions of the ship included a running length of 305.2 feet, a beam of 31.1 feet and a draught of 9.4 feet. Displacement was 1,053 tons (short).
Installed power consisted of 4 x White-Forster boiler units feeding 2 x Cramp direct-drive triple expansion steam turbines developing 16,000 horsepower to 2 x Shafts. The ship could make head way at nearly 30 knots under full steam.
The profile of USS Balch was consistent with USN warship design of the period. The bow was raised from the rest of the hull with an unbroken line then running from forecastle to stern. The bridge superstructure stood forward of midships and ahead of the four inline smoke funnels (these at midships itself). A two-mast arrangement was used with the forward post seated behind the bridge superstructure and the aft post nearer the stern.
Following commissioning in March of 1914, the vessel formed part of the USN presence at the Presidential Fleet Review in New York City waters that May. With war breaking out in Europe, American forces were on alert and Balch was sent on "Neutrality Patrol" for the interim. She rescued both British and Germans in an October 1916 action and was stationed in the Irish Sea following the American entry into the war. For a time, the class was used in the convoy escort role to protect Allied ships in the Atlantic from marauding German U-boat submarines. During October of 1918, USS Paulding accidentally ran into Balch which required her to be out-of-action at Queenstown (Ireland) for the period of two weeks. The war ended that November.
In January of 1919, USS Balch made her way back stateside and her role was reduced in the post-war period. She was then decommissioned on June 20th, 1922 and her name officially struck from the Naval Register on March 8th, 1935. That April, she was scrapped at the Philadelphia Navy Yard.