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Hull Number: DD-375

Launch Date: 04/22/1936

Commissioned Date: 01/15/1937

Decommissioned Date: 12/17/1945

Call Sign: NESJ


Namesake: JOHN DOWNES

JOHN DOWNES

Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships, July 2015

John Downes born in 1786 in Canton, Mass., served as acting midshipman from 9 September 1800 and was appointed midshipman 1 June 1802. He rendered distinguished service during the War with Tripoli in 1804 in frigate Congress, and was executive officer for Captain David Porter in Essex during the War of 1812. He commanded Epervier, Guerriere, Ontario and Independence, and the Boston Navy Yard, and was Commodore of the Pacific and Mediterranean Squadrons. Captain Downes died at Charlestown, Mass., 11 August 1854.


Disposition:

See CASSIN (DD-372) for Pearl Harbor damage. Sold on 11/18/1947. Scrapped.


A Tin Can Sailors Destroyer History

USS DOWNES DD-375

The Tin Can Sailor, April 1998

USS DOWNES would be the second MAHAN class destroyer to be built at the Norfolk Navy Yard; the second destroyer to honor Capt. John Downes.

Capt. Downes was named acting midshipman in 1800 and rose through the officer corps of the new American Navy with such luminaries as David Porter and Isaac Mull. At the end of his career, he was to serve as Commodore of both the Mediterranean and Pacific Squadrons. Downes passed away in 1854.

The new destroyer’s keel was laid on August 15, 1934 and she would be launched on April 22, 1936. Nine months later, USS DOWNES was commissioned.

Following brief operations in the Atlantic, DOWNES was transferred to the Pacific, where she operated from the fleet base in San Diego. In April, 1940, the fleet’s base was shifted to Pearl Harbor in the Hawaiian Islands, and DOWNES participated in extensive training exercises and cruises that ranged as far as Fiji and Australia.

DOWNES was scheduled for yard repair, so she was moved into the massive Dry Dock #1 in early December, sharing the facility with USS CASSIN (DD-372) and the fleet flagship, USS PENNSYLVANIA (BB-38). The second wave of attackers hit the dock area just before 0900, and all three vessels responded with a heavy curtain of anti-aircraft fire. A succession of bombs ripped through the thin hulls of the two destroyers, exploding fuel tanks and causing spontaneous explosions. Engulfed in flames, DOWNES was abandoned, as CASSIN rolled over onto the stricken tin can. By the end of the day, DOWNES was declared a total loss.

The salvage effort was commanded by then-Capt. Homer N. Wallin (he would retire as a Vice Admiral). Under Wallin’s expert direction, DOWNES’ hull was stripped of all useful equipment and the hull itself was scrapped. Carefully boxed and labeled, the hundreds of assemblies were shipped to Mare Island Ship Yard and reassembled in a new hull. USS DOWNES, complete with a new hull, a British-style bridge, and raised centerline torpedo tubes, was recommissioned on November 15, 1943.

DOWNES immediately went to war, escorting convoys from the West Coast to the forward areas and providing security for Eniwetok. Fire support missions off the islands in the Marianas alternated with screening duties for the task groups that ripped apart the Imperial Japanese empire in the central Pacific. Off Marcus Island, DOWNES took on a new role; that of actor.

The plan was to convince the Japanese that a landing was imminent, so Task Group 30.2, composed of three cruisers and six destroyers commanded by Capt. H. P. Smith, was ordered to took like an invasion. Hundreds of rounds were poured into the island, radar targets, attached to balloons, were launched, and floats were launched to simulate ship lights. Although the effect on the Japanese garrison was unreported, ADM William Halsey, Commander of the third fleet, enthused over an operation that he considered “brilliantly executed.”

After screening the task forces involved in the pivotal Battle of Leyte Gulf, DOWNES returned first to the fleet anchorage at Ulithi, then to Pearl Harbor for replenishment and repair. The process required almost five months.

The remaining months of World War II found DOWNES operating in the Marianas once again, patrolling and serving as an air-sea rescue vessel. Off Iwo Jima, DOWNES celebrated the announcement of the Japanese surrender. The destroyer began her homeward voyage an September 19, 1945.

DD-375 reached Norfolk on November 5, 1945 after visits to San Pedro, CA and Beaumont, TX. The veteran destroyer was decommissioned on December 17, 1945 and sold for scrapping on November 18, 1947.

USS DOWNES earned four battle stars for her service in World War II.

USS DOWNES DD-375 Ship History

Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships, July 2015

The second Downes (DD-375) was launched 22 April 1936 by Norfolk Navy Yard; sponsored by Miss S. F. Downes, descendant of Captain Downes; and commissioned 15 January 1937, Commander C. H. Roper in command.

Downes reached San Diego from Norfolk 24 November 1937, and based there for exercises along the west coast, in the Caribbean, and in the Hawaiian Islands until April 1940, when Pearl Harbor became her home port. In March and April 1941 she joined in a cruise to Samoa, Fiji, and Australia, and visited the west coast later in the year.

When the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor 7 December 1941, Downes was in drydock with Cassin (DD-372) and Pennsylvania (BB-38). The three came under heavy attack and an incendiary bomb landed between the two destroyers, starting raging fires fed by oil from a ruptured fuel tank. Despite heavy strafing, the crews of the two destroyers got their batteries into action, driving off further attacks by Japanese planes. The drydock was flooded in an effort to quench the fires, but the burning oil rose with the water level and when the ammunition and torpedo warheads on board the destroyers began to explode, the two ships were abandoned. Later Cassin slipped from her keel blocks and rested against Downes. Listed at first as complete losses, both of these destroyers lived to fight again.

Salvage operations were soon begun on Downes with machinery and other salvageable equipment being shipped to Mare Island Navy Yard. She was officially decommissioned 20 June 1942.

Rebuilt and recommissioned at Mare Island on 15 November 1943, Downes sailed from San Francisco 8 March to escort convoys to Pearl Harbor and on to Majuro, arriving 26 March. She was- assigned to blockade the bypassed Japanese stronghold, Wotje Atoll, until 5 April, then after replenishing at Pearl Harbor, arrived at Eniwetok 6 May for service as harbor entrance control vessel and task unit commander for the offshore patrol. During this duty she rescued a pilot in the lagoon at Eniwetok and four crewmen off Ponape, Caroline Islands. In July Downes began convoy duty from Eniwetok to Saipan in support of the Marianas operation, then patrolled off Tinian during its invasion. She gave fire support during the mopping up operations off Marpi Point, Tinian, and bombarded Aguijan Island. On 9 October she took part in the bombardment of Marcus Island as a diversion for carrier air strikes on the Nansei Shoto.

Downes sailed from Saipan 14 October 1944 to join TG 38.1 2 days later in a search for Japanese ships which Admiral W. F. Halsey hoped to lure into the open with damaged cruisers Canberra (CA-70) and Houston (CL-81). The task group returned to Leyte to support the landings there 20 October. Downes sailed the same day for Ulithi. but was recalled to screen the carriers during the air strikes on the Japanese Fleet in the epic Battle for Leyte Gulf. She was detached again 27 October and sailed to Ulithi for replenishment.

Continuing to Pearl Harbor for overhaul, Downes returned to Ulithi 29 March 1945 escorting a convoy, then sailed for Guam. From 5 April to 5 June she operated in the Marianas on patrol, air-sea rescue, submarine training, and escort duty. She served at Iwo Jima on similar duty from 9 June. With the end of the war, Downes was ordered to return to the United States and sailed from Iwo Jima 19 September with homeward-bound servicemen on board. She touched at San Pedro, Calif., called at Beaumont, Tex., for Navy Day celebrations and arrived at Norfolk 5 November. Downes was decommissioned 17 December 1945, and sold 18 November 1947.

Downes received four battle stars for World War II service.