The GLEAVES-Class Destroyers

By A. D. Jensen

The GLEAVES-class (DD-423) destroyers were almost identical to their near sisters of the BENSON class (DD-421), and together they were often referred to as the BENSON/GLEAVES class. About the only external feature by which they could be distinguished was the shape of their stacks; the GLEAVES class had round stacks, and the BENSONs' stacks were flat-sided. The difference was the result of the work of naval architects at two different design firms. Gibbs & Cox designed the GLEAVES class, which was built in various navy and private shipyards. Bethlehem Steel designed the BENSONs, built only in that company's shipyards.

An improvement on the SIMS class, which preceded them, the new destroyers were built on the same basic hull design. They introduced a new machinery arrangement, however, that featured alternating boiler and engine rooms calculated to give the ships a better chance at surviving torpedo damage. Their scantlings, or framing dimensions, were increased to carry the weight of the new machinery, which in turn increased the GLEAVES's displacement by about sixty tons. As originally designed the class had the following characteristics:

Length overall: 348'-3"
Extreme beam: 36'-1"
Displacement: 1,630 tons Standard

Four boilers
Two sets geared turbines
Two shafts/screws
Shaft horsepower: 50,000
Speed: 37.4 knots

Armament (as built)
Five, single 5-inch/38 caliber gun mounts
Two, quintuple 21-inch torpedo tubes
Six, .50 cal. machine guns
Two depth charge release tracks (for 600 pound charges)

Armament (typical 1945)
Four, single 5-inch/38 caliber gun mounts
Two, twin 40-mm gun mounts
Four, single 20-mm gun mounts
Two, quintuple 21-inch torpedo tubes
Two depth charge tracks (for 600 pound charges)
Six, single K-Gun depth charge projectors (for 300 pound charges)

Officers: 16
Enlisted: 260

The topside arrangement of the GLEAVES class was similar to that of the SIMS class, but instead of one stack they had two because of the new machinery arrangement. A notable feature of the BENSONs and the early ships of the GLEAVES class was the streamlining of their bridge, superstructure, and deck edges forward, which were subjected to considerable windage, especially at high speeds. The rounded bridge became a flat-sided design in later units of the GLEAVES class beginning with the DAVIDSON (DD-618). The height of the Mark 37 director barbette also was lessened so that it was only slightly above the top of the bridge, thus eliminating a considerable amount of weight high in the superstructure. The ships of the GLEAVES-class were the last U.S. Navy destroyers designed with a raised forecastle deck.

Five 5-inch/38 caliber single gun mounts, two located forward and three aft, were the original main armament of the class. The two mounts on the after superstructure deck were open mounts separated by a deckhouse that served as a shelter for the gun crews. A 36-in. searchlight was mounted atop the shelter. Soon after the war began, the number-three mount was removed and replaced with two twin 40-mm gun mounts. Number-four mount was given a half shield to save weight. Unlike the other mounts, it lacked roof plates. To protect the gun crew from the elements, the designers added a simple framework with a canvas top fitted as a roof for the mount.

Fitted to port and starboard of the centerline were two twin 40-mm gun mounts, which replaced the number three 5-inch gun mount. The deckhouse shelter was removed, and the searchlight was remounted on a short platform just forward of the 40-mm mounts. The .50 caliber machine guns were replaced with four single 20-mm gun mounts; two located forward on each side of the bridge and two amidships on each side of the second stack.

The BENSON/GLEAVES class also introduced the 21-inch quintuple torpedo tube mount, which became the standard for all subsequent U.S. Navy destroyers built during World War II. Originally, the men operating the after set of tubes were shielded from the blast of the number three 5-inch gun by a circular enclosure. When the number three gun was removed, the shield on the torpedo tubes was also removed.

Editor's Note: Some references identify the BENSON-GLEAVES class as the BENSON-LIVERMORE class. This was a designation for the FY 38-destroyer procurement coined by popular writers in compiling a number of fleet handbooks, for example James C. Fahey's The Ships and Aircraft of the U.S. Fleet, volumes 1-4, 1939-45. Some handbooks further split the class, adding the BRISTOL (DD-453) as yet another division. According to tradition, however, a class is identified by the lead ship; hence BENSON-GLEAVES is the proper designation for this group of destroyers

Copyright 1999 by Tin Can Sailors, Inc. All rights reserved.