Destroyers OnLine
The Destroyers
The destroyer class of ship came into existance as a weapon against the torpedo boat which itself came about as a cheap weapon against capital ships. The destroyer was in fact developed out of torpedo boat design. When opportunity provided, the destroyer could itself fulfill the mission of the torpedo boats and attack capital ships with torpedoes. Destroyers also were capable, being larger and more durable than torpedo boats, of serving as scout ships for the fleet. Eventually they became the general workhorses of the world's navies. They were small, expendable, and supremely seaworthy.

Torpedo boats were powered at first by steam and, initially, very much resembled the MTBs/PTs/S-Boats of WWII in size and use. The term "motor torpedo boats," is usually associated with later, internal combustion-engined types and their WWI predecessors.

The very first "torpedo boats" were actually steam-driven boats carried aboard larger ships and equipped to carry a Whitehead locomotive torpedo. Their use was probably thought of as analogous to the earlier "cutting-out" and fireship tactics against a force in harbor as I doubt they could have been much depended upon for open sea work. Their size, etc., points toward the later Motor Torpedo Boat.

True torpedo boats began to appear in the latter 1870s and were relatively small, steam driven vessels, usually armed with a single tube and some form of rapid fire weapon. Like the later MTBs they were ge- nerally looked upon as coastal weapons. As they grew in size and power they came to be perceived by the British Admiralty as a sea-going threat to the British Fleet particularly in the Channel and Baltic Sea. This led, first, to the Torpedo Gun Boat, a larger, more heavily-armed Torpedo Boat, and, ultimately, to the Torpedo Boat Destroyer - the direct ancestor of the Destroyer.

The term Torpedo Boat Destroyer became simply "Destroyer," but the original sense still appears in the French and Italian designations "contre-torpilleur" and "cacciatorpediniere."

Best current read for this: Lyon, David, " The First Destroyers," Annapolis, Maryland: Naval Institute Press, 1996. (For more Book selections, see our Book Review section.) If you're interested in a video, A & E has The Great Ships - Destroyers (2001) and from U.S. News & World Report: The Destroyers (1992).

The destroyer is different from the rest of ships. It is small, fast and personal. No other ship offers the experience that a destroyer does in any sea state. Long after they are gone, their crews remember.

The First Destroyers
by David Lyon

"U.S. Destroyers: An Illustrated Design History" by
Norman Friedman

"Blood on the Sea: American Destroyers Lost in World War II"
by Robert Sinclair Parkin

Sumner-Gearing-Class Destroyers Their Design, Weapons, and Equipment.
By Robert F. Sumrall

Buy from "Destroyers of World War Two: An International Encyclopedia" by M. J. Whitley

USS Damato (DD 871)
1966: USS Damato (DD 871) on a High Speed run in the Med
Art Gorman

The Destroyer Classes of old

Class Name

Lead Ship

Hull Number


Ships Built

Bainbridge Bainbridge DD 1 November 24, 1902


Hull Hull DD 7 May 20, 1903


Lawrence Lawrence DD 8 April 14, 1903


Truxtun Truxtun DD 14 September 11, 1902


Smith Smith DD 17 November 26, 1909


Flusser Flusser DD 20 October 28, 1909


Paulding Paulding DD 22 September 29, 1910


Cassin Cassin DD 43 August 9, 1913


O'Brien O'Brien DD 51 May 22, 1915


Tucker Tucker DD 57 April 11, 1916


Sampson Sampson DD 63 June 27 1916


Caldwell Caldwell DD 69 December 1, 1917


Wickes Wickes DD 75 July 31, 1918


Clemson Clemson DD 186 December 29, 1919


Farragut (1500 Tonner) Farragut DD 348 June 8, 1934


Porter Porter DD 356 August 25, 1936


Mahan Mahan DD 364 November 16, 1936


Somers Somers DD 381 June 30, 1938


Gridley Gridley DD 380 June 24, 1937


Bagley Bagley DD 386 June 12, 1937


Sims Sims DD 409 August 1, 1939


Benham Benham DD 397 February 2, 1939


Benson Benson DD 421 July 25, 1940


Bristol Bristol DD 453 October 22, 1941


Fletcher Fletcher DD 445 June 30, 1942


Sumner Allen M. Sumner DD 692 January 26, 1944


Gearing Gearing DD 710 May 3, 1945


Forrest Sherman Forrest Sherman DD 931 November 9, 1955


Charles F. Adams Charles F. Adams DDG 2 June 16, 1958


Norfolk Norfolk DL 1 March 4, 1953


Mitcher Mitcher DD 927( DDG 35 ) May 15, 1953


Coontz Coontz DDG 40( DLG 9 ) December 10, 1960


Spruance Spruance DD 963 September 20, 1975


Kidd Kidd DDG 993 June 27, 1981


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