USS Fletcher in her original layout, 1942
|Preceded by:||Gleaves class|
|Succeeded by:||Allen M. Sumner class|
|Built:||3 March 1941 to 22 February 1945|
|In commission:||4 June 1942 to 1971 (USN), 2001 (Mexico)|
|Lost:||19, plus 6 not repaired|
|Length:||376.5 ft (114.8 m)|
|Beam:||39.5 ft (12.0 m)|
|Draft:||17.5 ft (5.3 m)|
|Propulsion:||60,000 shp (45 MW); 4 oil-fired boilers; 2 geared steam turbines; 2 screws|
|Speed:||36.5 knots (67.6 km/h; 42.0 mph)|
|Complement:||329 officers and men|
The Fletcher class was a class of destroyers built by the United States during World War II. The class was designed in 1939, as a result of dissatisfaction with the earlier destroyer leader types of the Porter and Somers classes. Some went on to serve during the Korean War and into the Vietnam War.
The United States Navy commissioned 175 Fletcher-class destroyers between 1942 and 1944, more than any other destroyer class, and the design was generally regarded as highly successful. Fletchers had a design speed of 38 knots, and an armament of five 5" guns in single mounts with 10 21" torpedoes in two quintuple centerline mounts. The Allen M. Sumner and Gearing classes were Fletcher derivatives.
The long-range Fletcher-class ships performed every task asked of a destroyer, from anti-submarine warfare and anti-aircraft warfare to surface action. They could cover the vast distances required by fleet actions in the Pacific. In fact, they served almost exclusively in the Pacific Theater of Operations during World War II, during which they accounted for 29 Imperial Japanese Navy submarines sunk. In a massive effort, the Fletchers were built by shipyards across the United States and, after World War II ended, 11 were sold to countries they had been built to fight against: Italy, Germany, and Japan, as well as other navies, where they would go on to have even longer, distinguished careers.
Three have been preserved as museum ships in the U.S. and one in Greece.
The Fletcher class (named for Admiral Frank F. Fletcher) was the largest class of destroyer ordered, and was also one of the most successful and popular with the destroyer men themselves. Compared to earlier classes built for the Navy, they carried a significant increase in anti-aircraft weapons and other weaponry, which caused displacements to rise. Their flush deck construction added structural strength, although it did make them rather cramped, as less space was available below decks compared with a raised forecastle.
The Fletcher-class was the first generation of destroyers designed after the series of Naval Treaties that had limited ship designs heretofore. The growth in the design was in part to answer a question that always dogged U.S. Navy designs, that being the long range required by operations in the Pacific Ocean. They were also to carry no less than five 5 in (127 mm) guns and ten deck-mounted torpedo tubes on the centerline, allowing them to meet any foreign design on equal terms. Compared to earlier designs, the Fletchers were large, allowing them to eventually absorb the addition of two 40 mm Bofors quadruple mount AA guns as well as six 20 mm Oerlikon dual AA gun positions. This addition to the AA suite required the deletion of the forward quintuple torpedo mount, a change done under the 4 April 1945 anti-kamikaze program.
Fletchers were also much less top-heavy than previous classes, allowing them to take on additional equipment and weapons without major redesign. They were fortunate in catching American production at the right moment, becoming "the" destroyer design, and only Fletcher-class derivatives, the Sumner and Gearing classes, would follow it. The first design inputs were in the fall of 1939 from questionnaires distributed around design bureaus and the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations. The design parameters were the armaments desired of the next destroyer. As such, the questions were of how many guns, torpedoes, and depth charges were seen as desirable. Also asked was at what point would the design grow large enough to become a torpedo target instead of a torpedo delivery system. The answer that came back was that five 5 in (127 mm) dual purpose guns, twelve torpedoes, and twenty-eight depth charges would be ideal, while a return to the 1500-ton designs of the past was seen as undesirable. Speed requirements varied from 35 to 38 kn (40 to 44 mph; 65 to 70 km/h), and shortcomings in the earlier Sims class, which were top heavy and needed lead ballast to correct it, caused the Fletcher design to be widened by 18 in (46 cm) of beam. As with other previous U.S. flush deck destroyer designs, seagoing performance suffered. This was mitigated by deployment to the Pacific Ocean, which is relatively calm.
To achieve 38 kn (44 mph; 70 km/h) with a 500-ton increase in displacement, shaft horsepower was increased from 50,000 to 60,000 compared to the previous Benson and Gleaves classes. The Fletchers featured air-encased boilers producing steam at 600 psi (4,100 kPa) and 850 °F (454 °C), with emergency diesel generators providing 80 kW of electric power. Typically, Babcock & Wilcox boilers and General Electric geared steam turbines were equipped, although other designs and manufacturers were probably used to maximize the rate of production.
The main gun armament was five dual-purpose 5 inch/38 caliber (127 mm) guns in single mounts, guided by a Mark 37 Gun Fire Control System, including a Mk 12 fire control radar and a Mk 22 height-finder (both replaced by the circular Mk 25 radar postwar) linked by a Mark 1A Fire Control Computer and stabilized by a Mk 6 8,500 rpm gyro. Ten 21 in (530 mm) torpedo tubes were fitted in two quintuple centerline mounts, firing the Mark 15 torpedo. Initial designed anti-aircraft armament was a quadruple 1.1"/75 caliber gun mount and six .50 caliber machine guns; however, as the attack on Pearl Harbor had shown the need for increased light AA weapons, later ships were typically fitted with two twin 40 mm Bofors mounts plus seven single 20 mm Oerlikon weapons. Anti-submarine armament was initially two depth charge racks at the stern, augmented by up to six K-gun depth charge throwers as the war progressed.
Throughout the course of World War II, the number of anti-aircraft weapons increased, typically resulting in five twin 40 mm Bofors mounts plus seven single 20 mm Oerlikons by 1945. Due to the increasing threat from kamikaze attacks, fifty-one ships received further AA modifications beginning in 1945, replacing the forward torpedo tubes and midships 40 mm twin Bofors with two quadruple 40 mm for a total of 14 barrels, and the seven 20 mm singles with six 20 mm twins. Three (Pringle, Stevens, and Halford) were built (six planned) with aircraft catapults, resulting in the deletion of the rear torpedo tube mount and 5-inch mount number 3. This alteration was not a success in service and was not repeated. These three destroyers were later converted to the normal Fletcher-class configuration.
With the outbreak of the Korean War many were returned to active duty. During this time 39 were refitted, reducing their overall main armament and the number of torpedo tubes to accommodate other weapons. A new ahead-throwing weapon called Weapon Alpha was installed in many of the ships. Others carried trainable Hedgehogs. Eighteen ships were redesignated as escort destroyers (DDE), optimized for anti-submarine warfare; these reverted to destroyer (DD) designation in 1962.
Many of the ships were sold to other navies during the mid-1950s, including:
- Argentina: 5
- Brazil: 7
- Chile: 2
- Colombia: 1
- Greece: 6
- Italy: 3
- Japan: 2
- Mexico: 2
- Peru: 2
- South Korea: 3
- Spain: 5
- Taiwan: 4
- Turkey: 4
- West Germany: 6
Any remaining were broken up in the 1970s. The last Fletcher in service, BAM Cuitlahuac (ex-John Rodgers), left the Mexican navy in 2001, meaning the total service life of the Fletchers stretched over almost six decades and into the 21st century.
Four ships have been preserved as museum ships, although only Kidd was never modernized and retains her World War II configuration:
- USS Cassin Young, in Boston, Massachusetts
- USS The Sullivans, in Buffalo, New York
- USS Kidd, in Baton Rouge, Louisiana
- A/T Velos (of Hellenic Navy, former USS Charrette), in Palaio Faliro, Greece
Ships in class
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Fletcher class destroyers.|
- destroyerhistory.org: Fletcher class
- "USS Bush-Fletcher class". Retrieved 2007-04-12.
- Friedman, Norman. US Destroyers: An Illustrated Design History (revised edition, Naval Institute Press, Annapolis, 2004), pp.111-112.
- Friedman p.472
- Friedman p.111-112
- Friedman, pp.111-112
- Friedman, p.111
- Friedman, p.118
- Friedman, p.112
- Friedman, pp.112-113
- Bauer, K. Jack; Roberts, Stephen S. (1991). Register of Ships of the U.S. Navy, 1775-1990: Major Combatants. Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press. ISBN 0-313-26202-0.
- Friedman, Norman (2004). US Destroyers: An Illustrated Design History (Revised Edition). Annapolis: Naval Institute Press. ISBN 1-55750-442-3.
- Gardiner, Robert; Chesneau, Roger (1980). Conway's All the World's Fighting Ships 1922-1946. London: Conway Maritime Press. ISBN 0-83170-303-2.
- Gardiner, Robert; Chumbley, Stephen (1995). Conway's All the World's Fighting Ships 1947-1995. London: Conway Maritime Press. ISBN 1-55750-132-7.
- Silverstone, Paul H. (1965). U.S. Warships of World War II. London: Ian Allan Ltd. ISBN 0-7110-0157-X.
- This article incorporates text from the public domain Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships.
- Fletcher-class destroyers at Destroyer History Foundation
- List of Fletcher-class destroyers at Destroyer History Foundation
- Tin Can Sailors @ destroyers.org - Fletcher class destroyer
- USS Conway's Official Website, Fletcher class
- Destroyers Online, Fletcher class
- USS Cassin Young website
- Fletcher-class facts, USS Bush website
- Complete Fletcher-class list and photos, USS Abbot website
- "German Navy Fletcher-Class, "Z-1" ex-USS Anthony (DD-515). Pictures and History in German."
- A Sailor's Diary: Artwork, diaries, and letters from a sailor aboard the Fletcher class USS La Vallette
- NavSource Destroyer Photo Index Page