USS Sampson (DD 394) with an unidentified light cruiser at Bora Bora early in World War II.
One of the curiosities of the London Naval Treaty of 1930 is the method by which it established allowable destroyer tonnage. Destroyers were defined as “Surface vessels of war the standard displacement of which does not exceed 1,850 tons (1,880 metric tons), and with a gun not above 5.1 inch (130 mm) caliber.”

The United States was allowed 150,000 tons of such ships, (Britain 150,000, Japan 100,450), of which “not more than sixteen percent . . . shall be employed in vessels of over 1,500 tons (1,524 metric tons) standard displacement: thus 13 (give or take fifty tons) 1,850-tonners.

A debate arose within the US Navy regarding what, if any, types of ship should be built on this displacement. In World War I, divisions of both British and German torpedo-boat destroyers had been led into battle by light cruisers or more heavily armed flotilla leaders, but the US Navy had not developed such ships that could play such a role.