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DD-348 Farragut

The 1500-ton Farragut-class destroyer was so tight on weight that the Board could not get everything they wanted on the destroyer, but had to compromise on armament and either decrease the number of guns or the number of torpedo tubes, despite this class being 300-500 tons greater in displacement than the WW I era destroyers it was designed to replace.

The General Board started hearings on a new class of 1500-ton destroyers in early 1933. The Navy desperately needed to begin the incremental replacement of both the aging Wickes- and Clemson-classes, as well as provide the fleet with a larger and more modern destroyer with updated armament systems, greater seaworthiness, and greater speed than the 1000-ton flush-deckers of WW I vintage.

The Boards debate on armament centered around what type of primary gun to be used on the new destroyer, and whether to include a fire control director system with this new type of gun. Previous Board discussions on gun type and size dealt with the single purpose gun, anti-surface or anti-air, or double purpose guns to encompass both duties. The size of the gun was determined to be some sort of 5' guns, but the pros and cons of the 5" .51 caliber verses the 5" .25 caliber or the 5" .38 caliber were debated extensively in order to get the gun correct for the predicted future missions that destroyers would have to perform.

The number of guns, either four or five, on centerline, needed to be adjusted in order to get the correct topside weight for increased stability, also affected the number of torpedo tubes and their placement on the 1500-ton destroyer. The guns versus torpedo debate focused on the most likely mission and enemy for the destroyers in the future, i.e. guns for anti-surface or anti-aircraft work or torpedoes to be used against enemy capital ships.

The weight of the 5-inch 38 caused Construction & Repair considerable difficulty from the weight and stability standpoint because that is the prime reason why the torpedo armament is necessarily reduced. Any analysis of weights and moments immediately disclosed a possible interchange between guns and torpedoes. The value of the guns for anti-aircraft work must of course be considered most carefully. From the weight standpoint there was a considerable price in obtaining it.

There was a ton and a half, or maybe slightly more, increased weight per gun due to the use of the 5-inch 38. The number of tons to play with after taking care of the necessary hull and speed considerations was very small indeed. It was in the nature of just a few tons that make the difference between increasing the torpedo armament or not.

The 1500-ton Farragut-class, first commissioned in 1934, started receiving improvements immediately after the first two ships of the class were built. These improvements were mentioned above and incorporated into the Mahan and later destroyers. However, it was not until 1939 that the Board discussed problems facing the 1500-ton classes. First among the problems was the increase in hull weights due to an increase in armament and ammunition weights, as well as engineering weight factors. Secondly, the initial hulls were deemed too fragile and needed to be strengthened to withstand the punishment at sea.

About two-thirds through the 1500-ton class, starting with the Sims, the ships had to be lengthened due to the fact that the ships were simply going deeper into the water with the increases in weight. The increase in weight between the lighter, initial destroyers and those produced afterwards forced the speed down from almost 40 kts to approximately 35 kts on those ships approaching 1600-tons displacement. The speed, essential to the success of the destroyer, was meant to provide a destroyer capable of making a minimum of 35 kts, fully loaded, in reasonable seas.

The 1500-ton classes also suffered from lack of uniformity in design characteristics, with some ships receiving light armor protection over the engineer spaces and around the pilothouses, while others received none. These variations caused weight and handling differences among the ships as well. Among all the ships in the 1500-ton category, none received any protection against strafing attack in the vicinity of the torpedo tubes, and after tested, found that torpedoes detonated when struck with .50 caliber rounds.

Gun crews were protected from spray and fragments on some of the guns on some of the ships, but others had no protection on any of the guys. Armament configurations differed several times throughout the building program, switching from five guns and two quadruple torpedo tubes on centerline to four guns and four quadruple torpedo tubes back to five guns and three quadruple tubes, one on centerline and two on the wings.

This lack of uniformity among the 1500-ton class proved problematic for the Board, as they faced the idea of having to choose to mass-produce a complicated destroyer in wartime. In a memorandum from The Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Navy: Shore Establishments Division, Commander Robert B. Carney, suggested ?that the simplest possible prototype plan is desirable should we go into a war-time construction programdesirable both from the viewpoints of speed construction and easier operation by quickly expanded and inexperienced crews.

The severity of the stability issues throughout the 1500-ton class forced the Board to hold back-to-back hearings in August 1939 in order to fix the stability issues brought to light during testing in early 1939. The Board hoped to fix these stability issues in destroyers 409-420 currently under construction before the Navy took possession of them in the Fleet.170 The primary causal factor for the instability focused on these destroyers being extremely top heavy, which forced the Board discussions on removing guns or torpedoes from this class. The 1500-tonners proved inherently unstable during high speed turns and turns in heavy seas and winds.

USS Farragut, first of a class of eight 1365-ton destroyers, was built at Quincy, Massachusetts. Commissioned in June 1934 as the first U.S. Navy destroyer built in more than a decade, she operated in the Atlantic area until the spring of 1935. Transferred at that time to the Pacific, Farragut took part in the U.S. Fleet's peacetime maneuvers and training. Her base was shifted from the west coast to Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, in October 1939, and she was moored there when Japan began the Pacific War with the 7 December 1941 surprise attack on that base. Her early wartime missions included patrol and escort duties in the vicinity of Hawaii and the California coast. In early May 1942, the destroyer participated in the Battle of the Coral Sea.

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