A Tin Can Sailors Destroyer History
USS BLUE DD-387
The Tin Can Sailor, April 1997
USS BLUE was the second Navy-designed small single stack destroyer to be laid down in the new building programs of the 1930s. Her superficial resemblance to the four Bethlehem designed and built 1,500 tonners cause many sources to label her as a GRIDLEY, but her design, hull, building site, and power plant clearly establish her parentage as a BAGLEY sister ship.
DD-387 was named for RADM Victor Blue, whose service first as intelligence operative during the Spanish-American War then as Chief of the Bureau of Navigation and commander of the battleship TEXAS (BB-35) during World War I marked him as a leader in the emerging world-class United States Navy.
USS BLUE was launched at the Norfolk Navy Yard on May 27, 1937 and commissioned less than four months later. Her commissioning was followed by a year-long series of shakedown and training cruises in the Atlantic and Caribbean areas before her reassignment to the Pacific fleet. She arrived in San Diego in August, 1938 to become flagship of DESDIV 7, a part of the Pacific battle force.
The Japanese attack on December 7, 1941 found USS BLUE moored in the heart of the sprawling navy base. With four ensigns as senior officers aboard, USS BLUE’s firemen were able to raise steam and sortie from the harbor, making the destroyer among the first major naval vessels to become operational after the attack.
After patrol and convoy duties around the Hawaiian Islands at the beginning of the war, BLUE was transferred to the swirling battles around Guadalcanal. Japanese forces planned to use the large island as a stepping stone in the invasion of Australia. Control of Guadalcanal became critical to the entire Pacific war.
In the early morning hours of August 22, 1942, USS BLUE was patrolling the waters of Ironbottom Sound, escorting a convoy in the company of two of her sister ships. A Japanese destroyer, slipping into the Sound behind a group of attack transports (APDs), launched two torpedoes at the destroyer. Emergency maneuvers proved to be too late. Critically wounded on her starboard side, her after steering room devastated, both propeller shafts damaged, and electrical power lost, USS BLUE was in danger. But damage control aboard BLUE was superb. BLUE was kept afloat until USS HELM (DD-388) could pass a towing line to the stricken tin can and begin the slow trip to a safe anchorage. Unfortunately, the rescue was doomed to failure.
A large Japanese force was spotted steaming down “The Slot” northwest of the Sound. Given the likelihood that the enemy would capture BLUE, orders were given to take off her crew and scuttle the ship. All of the water lines were opened and the watertight doors undogged. On August 22, 1942, USS BLUE sank beneath the waves of Ironbottom Sound.