Cruiser Omaha (right) stands by blockade runner Odenwald, viewed from Somers, 6 November 1941.
As built, the 1,850-ton Porter- and Somers- class destroyer leaders were equipped with 5-inch/38-caliber guns, but not of the dual purpose variety, capable of anti-aircraft fire. This proved to be a handicap that, in wartime, made them vulnerable to air attack, which in turn affected their careers.
DesRon 9 in the Atlantic

DesRon 9 in the Atlantic.

Five of them, Balch, Clark, Phelps, Porter and Selfridge, were assigned as squadron flagships. The other eight, Davis, Jouett, McDougal, Moffett, Sampson, Somers, Warrington and Winslow, formed Destroyer Squadron 9 in 1937.

After operating with the Pacific Fleet, the squadron moved to the Atlantic following Hitler’s declaration in March 1941 that Iceland was part of the war zone. From June, with Somers as flagship, it was attached to Rear Admiral Jonas Ingraham’s Task Force 3 with Cruiser Division 2—four-stack cruisers Memphis (flag), Milwaukee, Cincinnati and Omaha—operating from Trinidad and Brazilian ports in the Neutrality Patrol, and continuing in anti-submarine patrol and escort duty in the Caribbean Sea and the Central Atlantic after the United States joined the war. In January 1942, Sampson and Warrington were transferred to the Pacific Fleet.

Destroyer Squadron 9
1 October 1941
Destroyer Division 17
USS McDougal (DD 358), flag
USS Winslow (DD 359)
USS Moffett (DD 362)
USS Sampson (DD 394)
Destroyer Division 18
USS Somers (DD 381), flag
USS Warrington (DD 383)
USS Davis (DD 395)
USS Jouett (DD 396)

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In August 1941, DesDiv 17 went north to escort Atlantic Fleet flagship Augusta (CA 31) with President Franklin Roosevelt embarked to Placentia Bay, Newfoundland, where he and Prime Minister Winston Churchill formulated the Atlantic Charter, which affirmed that both Britain and the United States advocated the restoration of self-government to peoples forcibly deprived of it.

Despite operating over great distances, the squadron achieved some success in intercepting blockade runners:

  • On 6 November 1941, Somers and Omaha seized the German freighter Odenwald near St. Paul’s Rocks in the mid-Atlantic northeast of Recife, Brazil and took her to San Juan.
  • In November 1942, operating with Cincinnati and Milwaukee, Somers also sank blockade runner Anneliese Essberger and, in January 1944, Westerland.
  • On 7 January 1944, Davis intercepted blockade runner Burgenland.

Destroyer Squadron 9
World War II Operations
DesRon 9 operations

Squadron ships also accounted for two German submarines:

  • On 17 May 1943 in the South Atlantic, Moffett, Jouett and aircraft sank U-128.
  • On 11 August after a running battle north of Trinidad, Moffett was also credited with sinking U-604.

The squadron was disbanded in the summer of 1944 soon after the ships of DesDiv 18 (less Warrington, which was still in the Pacific) headed north for the invasion of Normandy on 6 June. On the 21st, Davis was damaged by an explosion, probably from a mine, but Somers and Jouett continued on to the Mediterranean and operated in the invasion of southern France.

Meanwhile, Sampson, Warrington and the four surviving Porters that had served as flagships in the Pacific were withdrawn from the Pacific. First was Clark, which had arrived at Balboa in December 1942 and patrolled off South America’s west coast as flagship of the Southeast Pacific Force until August 1944. The others also passed through the Panama Canal that summer—Sampson in June, Warrington and Balch in July, Phelps in August and Selfridge in September.

In the Atlantic, they commenced escorting convoys to North Africa or Europe and remained in that service until May or June 1945. The exception was Warrington which, while escorting Hyades (AF 28) from Norfolk to Trinidad on 13 September 1944, was overwhelmed by a hurricane and lost with nearly 80 per cent of her crew.

All the 1,850-tonners were retired and scrapped by the end of 1947 except two:

  • McDougal, which was placed back in service as a naval reserve training ship from 1947–49.
  • Winslow, which participated in fire control experiments with the Operational Development Force before being placed in reserve at Charleston in 1950, stricken in 1957 and sold for scrapping in 1959.

Source: Naval History & Heritage Command including Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships histories for individual ships.