USS Farragut by Walter L. Greene.
By 1930, ten years after the last of the mass-produced “flush-deck” destroyers had been laid down and in light of the new London Naval Treaty, a need for new construction had become clear.
Recognition features

First among these were eight ships of the Farragut class, which reintroduced a raised forecastle for improved seakeeping, foreshadowed a trend toward higher-pressure boilers for longer-range steaming and, most importantly, introduced the 5-inch/38-cal. dual purpose gun which, with an effective fire control system, remained the most advanced weapon of its type through the end of World War II.

When they entered service beginning in 1934, the Farraguts represented such an advance over the flush deckers that their “over-lavish facilities” attracted criticism; old-time destroyermen soon began referring to them as “goldplaters.” Eventually, however, 73 ships (DDs 348–420—see ship list) were commissioned in five more classes—the “1,500-tonMahan, Gridley, Bagley, Benham classes and successor 1,570-ton Sims class plus two classes of larger “destroyer leaders,” Porter and Somers, funded in fiscal years as follows:

Fiscal year authorized

1932: Five original “goldplaters” (the Farraguts), with eight torpedo tubes and five 5-inch/38 cal. dual purpose guns.

1933: Three more Farraguts.

1934: Eight leaders (the Porter class) and sixteen 1,500-tonners with twelve torpedo tubes (the Mahan class) both designed by Gibbs & Cox.

Battle stars

1935: Two leaders of a new class (Somers and Warrington) and twelve 1,500-tonners. Originally contemplating twelve ships of an improved Mahan design, the navy instead had just two laid down (Dunlap and Fanning—the last two-stackers) while authorizing Bethlehem Steel’s Quincy, MA, shipyard to build two ships (Gridley and Craven) of a new single-stack design with sixteen torpedo tubes in four quadruple wing mounts but just four 5-inch guns; also eight of the new Bagley class from Gibbs & Cox, with machinery carried over from the Mahans.

1936: Twelve more sixteen-tube ships—two Gridleys from Bethlehem and ten more ships similar to the Bagleys but with three instead of four boilers—the Benham class—plus plus three more Somers-class leaders.

1937: Twelve slightly larger and heavier ships, the streamlined 1,570-ton Sims class, in which anticipated savings in machinery weight—needed to offset improved-but-heavier ordnance and fire control—were not achieved. Originally fitted with twelve tubes and five 5-inch/38s, these were promptly reduced to eight and four, respectively.


Goldplaters were at the heart of the Pacific war from the beginning. At Pearl Harbor, two (Cassin and Downes) were destroyed and a third (Shaw) was heavily damaged, but all were returned to service. Other ships of these classes held the line after the retreat from Indonesia, screening carriers, facing an initially-superior enemy at Guadalcanal, and also serving in the Aleutians before newer classes arrived to relieve them. By the end of the war, nearly one in three—22—had been lost:
  • Eleven were sunk in 1942: Sims at the Battle of the Coral Sea and Hammann at the Battle of Midway; followed by Benham, Blue, Cushing, Jarvis, O’Brien, Porter, Preston, Tucker and Walke during the Guadalcanal operation.
  • In 1943, Buck and Rowan were lost in the Medterranean and Henley and Perkins in the South Pacific while Worden grounded and broke up in the Aleutian Islands.
  • In 1944, Warrington was swamped in an Atlantic hurricane. In the Pacific during the Philippines campaign, Mahan and Reid were lost in the Ormoc Bay operation and Hull and Monaghan were lost in the great December typhoon.
  • Still on the front line at Okinawa in 1945, Morris had her bow nearly severed by a kamikaze and was repaired only sufficiently to make it home.

CONSTRUCTIONConstruction history

The goldplaters were laid down beginning in 1932 and, after the Farraguts arrived, were delivered in two general groups—the first concentrated in late 1936–1937 and the second peaking in late 1939 and early 1940, immediately preceding the first Bensons and Gleaves.

The 1,500-ton classes and 1,850-ton leaders were the slowest to complete, averaging 565 days from keel laying to lunch and 250 more to commissioning, a total of 815 days. The Sims class, delivered after war broke out in Europe and benefitting from an improved supply chain, were launched after an average of 448 days and commissioned after 216 more for a total of 664 days, an improvement of nearly 20 per cent. Next.


While 27 1,500-tonners, leaders and Sims-class ships earned ten or more service stars and six of them under Commander Frederick Moosbrugger engaged in the first major night surface action in the Solomon Islands without cruisers present also the first clear-cut US victory in that campaign—the Battle of Vella Gulf—individual ships remained relatively unsung and only three were decorated: two 1,500-tonners, Maury and Sterett, both subjects of excellent books (see references), were awarded the Presidential Unit Citation for their overall performance in the Solomon Islands, as was Smith for her crew’s work in saving her after she was crashed by a Japanese plane at the Battle of the Santa Cruz Islands in October 1942.