Building Destroyers at a Frenzied Pace
Left: USS Aaron Ward (DD-483) and USS Buchanan (DD-484) Gleaves Class destroyers ready for launch at Federal Shipbuilding, Kearney, New Jersey, October, 1941. Gleaves was the last of the pre-war destroyers. Sixty-six were built between May1938 and November, 1942 (first keel to last launch). Since this design was already in production, shipyards did not stop building them while, at the same time starting to build the new Fletcher class.
The plans Washington put in place to build destroyers was described as an “emergency” program. USS Fletcher keel was laid two months before the Pearl Harbor attack, and just 32 months later, 11 shipyards, working overtime, had launched 175 Fletcher class destroyers. That is a rate of more than a ship a week. This would be amazing enough, but American shipyards in that same period were also building battleships, carriers, cruisers, transport ships, and submarines….as well the previous (Gleaves) and subsequent (Sumner) classes of destroyers.
Below Left: Miss Hilda Ward, daughter of Rear Admiral Aaron Ward, christens the ship named in honor of her father.
Below Right: USS Philip (DD-498) and USS Henshaw (DD-499) Fletcher class destroyers ready for a dual christening ceremony at Federal Shipbuilding in Kearny, New Jersey on October 13, 1942, ten months after the attack on Pearl Harbor.
A ship’s guns and other gear such as radar were mounted after launch. Then the ship would be assigned a crew and go through a period of trials before being commissioned.
While the speed of a destroyer was officially rated at 36 or 37 knots, they often actually achieved higher speeds during trials. USS Maury (DD-401), a Gridly class destroyer was clocked at 42.8 knots in 1938. That is about 46 miles per hour, which is just about highway speed in a car, probably was highway speed in a 1938 car. The point is these ships were built to HAUL and pack a serious punch with torpedoes, 5” guns, and depth charges.