Destroyer Division 33 at San Diego in 1921.
While 273 flush-deckers were built, there never were 273 in commission at one time: three were lost in 1921 (below), so when the final trio commissioned in August 1922, the total reached only 270.


Flush-deckers in commission 1920–1939.

The number of active destroyers had already peaked at 268 in June 1921. Along the way, in 1919–20, Waters decommissioned for five months and then returned to service. Also, in August 1920, fourteen hulls were converted as fast minelayers.


The flush-deck fleet was reduced by three destroyers in 1921:
  • On 26 February off Balboa, Panama Canal Zone, Woolsey was run down and cut in half by SS Steel Inventor.
  • On 1 December in heavy fog, DeLong ran aground and was wrecked at Half Moon Bay, California, south of San Francisco.
  • On the 16th off New Jersey, Graham was damaged beyond repair in collision with SS Panama.

Salvaged, both the latter ships decommissioned the following March.


For just over a year beginning in April 1921, the number of active flush-deckers stabilized at more than 260. Already in July, however, decommissionings began with Dickerson. These proceeded slowly at first; then increased precipitously in July, August and September of the following year.
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By April 1923, there were 152 ships on “red lead row.” With the total number of flush-deckers remaining constant at 270, the number of ships in commission dropped accordingly—from 261 in May 1922 to to 138 in July—then stabilized at 118 (six of which were minelayers).


Meanwhile, flush deckers made their way to many regions around the world:
  • To the eastern Mediterranean and Black Sea, where they were confronted with widespread humanitarian calamities: the evacuation in 1920 of nearly 150,000 White Russian refugees from the Crimea to Constantinople; the escorting of grain ships during 18 months in 1921 and 22 in an effort to relieve the great Russian potato famine; and the evacuation of 200,000 ethnic Greeks and Armenians to Greece at the close of the Greco-Turkish war.
  • To Asia, where they supported American interests in China and in 1923 provided relief for an earthquake that decimated Tokyo, Japan.
Tragedy at Honda


On the evening of 8 September 1923, the US Navy experienced its most celebrated peacetime loss when seven ships of Destroyer Squadron 11—Delphy, S. P. Lee, Young, Woodbury, Nicholas, Fuller and Chauncey—piled up on the California coast at Point Pedernales (Honda), just north of Point Arguello, bringing the number in commission down to 111.
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The number of active flush deckers increased again to 113 in April 1925 when Hazelwood and Dallas recommissioned, leaving 150 in reserve. McDermut and Meyer decommissioned in May 1929, bringing the number in service back down to 111.




100 Maury
102 Mahan
276 McCawley
277 Moody
278 Henshaw
280 Doyen
282 Toucey
285 Case
286 Lardner
289 Flusser
290 Dale
291 Converse
292 Reid
293 Billingsley
294 Charles Ausburn
295 Osborne
298 Percival
299 John Francis Burnes
300 Farragut
301 Somers
302 Stoddert
303 Reno
304 Farquhar
305 Thompson
306 Kennedy
307 Paul Hamilton
308 William Jones
313 Zeilin
315 La Vallette
316 Sloat
319 Kidder
321 Marcus
322 Mervine
323 Chase
324 Robert Smith
325 Mullany
326 Coghlan
327 Preston
328 Lamson
329 Bruce
330 Hull
331 Macdonough
332 Farenholt
333 Sumner
334 Corry
335 Melvin

74 Manley
76 Philip
78 Evans
93 Fairfax
94 Taylor
101 Lansdale
113 Rathburne
114 Talbot
115 Waters
116 Dent
117 Dorsey
118 Lea
123 Gamble
124 Ramsay
125 Tattnall
126 Badger
128 Babbitt
130 Jacob Jones
132 Aaron Ward
132 Buchanan
133 Hale
134 Crowninshield
135 Tillman
140 Claxton
141 Hamilton
142 Tarbell
145 Greer
146 Elliot
147 Roper
148 Breckinridge
152 Du Pont
153 Bernadou
154 Ellis
155 Cole
156 J. Fred Talbott
157 Dickerson
158 Leary
159 Schenck
160 Herbert
193 Upshur
206 Chandler
208 Hovey
209 Long
210 Broome
211 Alden
337 Zane
338 Wasmuth
340 Perry


Shortly before the 1929 stock market crash, Navy Secretary Charles Francis Adams’ annual report to Congress raised the issue that 60 flush-deckers—Bethlehem-built with Yarrow boilers (including 46 of the 111 ships in commission)—were wearing out. As the Navy Department could not justify the expenditures necessary to refit them, he said, “they would be decommissioned with a view to their ultimate removal from the Naval List.”

Most of the 46 were scrapped or sold by 1934. (Two that escaped were Thompson, which became a floating restaurant in South San Francisco, and Corry, which was towed up the Napa River from Mare Island and stranded along the east bank.) To replace them, 48 mothballed ships were recommissioned (see table).


In the twenties, during the “prohibition era,” 23 flivvers and 1,000-tonners had been transferred to the Coast Guard to help chase down “rum runners.” In 1930–2, Paulding-class Monaghan, Patterson, Paulding, Roe, Terry and Trippe were retired and replaced by six flush-deckers—Abel P. Upshur, George E. Badger, Herndon, Hunt, Welborn C. Wood and Semmes—which took their hull numbers CG-15–20 and served until 1934.

In 1935, a year after returning from her Coast Guard service, Semmes was converted as a submarine test ship (AG 24). Operating thereafter from Key West, Florida, she continued in this service throughout World War II.


The 1930 London Naval Treaty limited the total tonnage of destroyers the US Navy could maintain. Also, as the first goldplaters began to commission, a second group of flush-deckers was sold for scrapping, including 35 more Bethlehem-built ships with Yarrow boilers (see table).

As a result of this program (partially offset by some recommissionings) plus the loss due to collision of Smith Thompson in 1936, the total number of flush-deckers dropped from 200 (102 in commission) at the beginning of 1936 to 172 by May 1937. The decommissioning of Walker in March 1938 and Taylor in December brought the active and reserve force down to 170 (78 in commission).


69 Caldwell
71 Gwin
80 Kimberly
84 Dyer
86 Stevens
87 McKee
91 Harding
92 Gridley
94 Taylor
95 Bell
96 Stribling
97 Murray
98 Israel
99 Luce
101 Lansdale
104 Champlin
105 Mugford
107 Hazelwood
111 Ingraham
120 Radford
163 Walker
165 Meredith
166 Bush
172 Anthony
173 Sproston
176 Renshaw
177 O’Bannon
238 James K. Paulding
259 Turner
271 Morris
272 Tingey
275 Sinclair
302 Stoddert
316 Sloat
321 Marcus


On 3 September 1939, two days after Germany invaded Poland to begin World War II, Congress passed the Neutrality Act. Thirteen flush-deckers had long been attached to the Asiatic Fleet as Destroyer Squadron 5 and later as Destroyer Squadron 29. In addition to 60 1,500–1,850-tonners, that left 65 flush-deckers—some of which were conversions—to cover the entire western hemisphere, for which the US Navy was now responsible.

Immediately it moved to activate every additional escort vessel available. Fifty-four of the 92 mothballed flush-deckers recommissioned during the last four months of 1939 and by September 1940, when transfer of fifty “destroyers for bases” to the UK and Canada began, “red lead row” was empty.

Sources: Destroyer History Foundation database and Dickey, A Family Saga.