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DD-356 Porter

Specifically designed for long-range operations in the Pacific, the Porter-class destroyers were significantly larger than most other destroyers in the Battle Force. This large destroyer was more crafted along the lines of European large destroyers, heavy on artillery. With eight 5" guns in twin mounts, the Porters were almost small cruisers. Their almost pre-ordained role was that of a "destroyer leader", although the Navy did not want them to be; and yet, so they were used.

The new proposed 1850-ton destroyer was originally discussed and the design approved in 1928, but needed further revision based on changing missions for the destroyer in the Fleet. Similar to the 1500-ton destroyer hearing, armament was a major point of contention throughout the hearing. Torpedo tube numbers and locations needed to be determined, as well as whether the ship would have single or double purpose guns, and whether those guns would be in single or dual mounts or a combination throughout the length of the ship. The torpedo question involved whether eight centerline torpedo tubes in two quadruple mounts satisfied the requirement for torpedo power or if the Board desired twelve total tubes, both on the centerline and broadside.

The General Board addressed speed, radius of action, and habitability, as well as the armament issues mentioned before. The recommended speed was 35 kts at a set 42,800 shaft horse power (shp). The Boards recommended speed throughout the rest of the 1930s was a minimum of 35 kts, a departure from the Clemson-class that made approximately 28 kts, but now had trouble making that top speed. The radius of action was calculated at 12 kts for 8400 miles, an improvement of between two to four thousand miles over WW I classes. Habitability focused on shields for the two bow guns and an increase in the number of staterooms to be provided for the squadron commander and his staff.

The 1850-ton design included two 1.1 pounder anti-aircraft guns and additional .50 caliber guns for anti-aircraft defense, an additional set of improvements over the 1500-ton Farragut. The 1.1 pounders and .50 caliber machine guns justified the use of eight single purpose guns for the 1850-ton, instead of using a mix of single and double purpose guns.

The move toward less torpedoes in both proposed classes points to differing views on the future mission of the destroyer, moving away from torpedo engagement of the enemys battle line and more toward a multi-mission platform capable of scouting, offensive, and defensive mission sets. The larger size destroyers allowed the Board to raise the level of armament to something approaching a light cruiser in number of guns, but not size of guns.

The Navy tried to fill in the small light cruiser void by building a big destroyer. The Navy ended up building sixty 1500-ton destroyers and thirteen 1850-ton leaders from 1934 to 1940.

USS Porter, a 1850-ton destroyer, was built at Camden, New Jersey. Commissioned in August 1936, she operated in the Atlantic and Pacific oceans prior to World War II. In her last pre-war overhaul, an "FC" radar antenna has been fitted to Porter's main battery director, and her mast was modified to receive the antenna for an "SC" radar set. She remained in the Pacific after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, and participated in the Guadalcanal campaign beginning in October 1942. On 26 October, during the Battle of the Santa Cruz Islands, Porter (DD-356) was hit inadvertantly by an American aircraft torpedo and had to be sunk by another U.S. Navy ship.

In mid-1943 Balch (DD-363) entered drydock to receive some improvements to her armament and related equipment. More had been planned, but shortages of equipment limited her modernization. She kept her twin 5-inch mounts, but 10 40-millimeter -- in a single quadruple mount and three twin mounts -- and six 20-millimeter guns replaced her old antiaircraft defenses. A main-battery radar installation significantly improved her surface gunnery capability, but no antiaircraft radar was available. These limited alterations still took close to two months, and it was not until late August that post-repair sea trials and radar-calibration gunnery drills could be conducted at sea.

In mid-1944 the Porter-class destroyers, large but considerably inferior in antiair capability compared to later designs, were transferred to the Atlantic. There, they were to replace the Coast Guard's Secretary-class cutters which were serving as convoy flagships, while the cutters themselves became amphibious command ships. After being refitted with new guns and other improvements, Phelps (DD-360), served for the rest of World War II on convoy escort duties between the U.S. and the Mediterranean.

The war in Europe ended while Balch was returning to the United States in May, and she moored at the New York Navy Yard on 23 May 1945. The destroyer underwent routine yard upkeep until 14 June when she set out for Philadelphia. Mooring at the Cramp shipyard on the 22nd, she prepared for "maximum material improvement" overhaul -- the installation of dual-purpose 5-inch guns and new mounts. On 15 August, however, in the midst of the yard work, orders came putting all armament modernization plans on hold because of the war's end. Balch left the shipyard on 31 August and, following an inspection on 18 September, was slated for deactivation.



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