The early history of Destroyer Squadron 1 reflected the rapidly-changing organization and composition of the United States Navy’s destroyer force following World War I.

Mention of the squadron first appeared in the Navy Directories of 1919, when the Navy divided its post-war force of “torpedo vessel destroyers” into four squadrons, each consisting of two or three flotillas of three six- or seven-ship divisions. Initially, while DesRon 1’s Flotilla 1 consisted of Cassin, Aylwin, O’Brien and Tucker-class 1,000-tonners, Flotillas 2 and 3 added Caldwell- and Wickes-class flush-deckers.

By January 1920, composition of DesRon 1’s three flotillas and eight divisions had changed to consist of six destroyers in commission and seven in reserve plus 35 of the latest Clemson-class “flush-deck” destroyers still building. Later that year, following a swap between the meaning of “squadron” and “flotilla,” squadron strength was reduced to three divisions whose composition, by 1922, had reverted to that of the original Flotilla 1 plus a flush-deck flagship, all of which were being laid up in reserve at Philadelphia.

In 1924, seven destroyers were reactivated and loaned to the Coast Guard, which operated them as cutters over the next decade. Meanwhile, DesRon 1 disappeared from the Naval Register in 1927 and by the mid-1930s, all of its 1,000-tonners including the Coast Guard cutters had been scrapped.

Destroyer Squadron 1
1 January 1938
USS Phelps, DD 360, flag
Destroyer Division 1
USS Dewey, DD 349, flag
USS Hull, DD 350
USS Macdonough, DD 351
USS Worden, DD 352
Destroyer Division 2
USS Farragut, DD 348
USS Dale, DD 353
USS Monaghan, DD 354
USS Aylwin, DD 355

The 1930s brought two destoyer force reorganizations.

In 1931, the existing DesRon 7 was renumbered as DesRon 1. Again there were three divisions but this time all ships were in commission and attached to the Scouting Force (Atlantic Fleet), whose composition changed often but always with Dallas (DD 199) as flagship.

Meanwhile, the London Naval Arms Limitation Treaty of 1930 had placed restrictions on destroyer tonnage. In 1932, having ceased destroyer production ten years earlier, the United States responded by resuming construction with eight Farragut-class 1,500-tonners, which introduced the excellent director-controlled 5-inch/38 caliber dual purpose gun, combining five single mounts with eight 21-inch centerline torpedo tubes on a hull with such “lavish” accommodations that old hands soon began calling them “gold-platers.” After commissioning in 1934–5, the eight formed two of three divisions of a new DesRon 20 with the latest 1,850-ton Porter-class destroyer leader Phelps (DD 360) as flagship.

In 1937, when standard squadron strength was reduced to a flagship plus two four-ship divisions, Phelps and the Farraguts were redesignated DesRon 1 and moved to the Pacific to join the United States Fleet’s Battle Force.

Ships of the squadron had thus operated together for more than five years on 7 December 1941, when Japanese aircraft attacked Pearl Harbor. (continued)