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Hull Number: DD-420

Launch Date: 05/22/1939

Commissioned Date: 05/15/1940


Class: SIMS

SIMS Class

Data for USS Hughes (DD-410) as of 1945


Length Overall: 348' 4"

Beam: 36' 0

Draft: 13' 4"

Standard Displacement: 1,570 tons

Full Load Displacement: 2,465 tons

Fuel capacity: 2,929 barrels

Armament:

Four 5″/38 caliber guns
Two 40mm twin anti-aircraft mounts
Two 21″ quadruple torpedo tubes

Complement:

16 Officers
235 Enlisted

Propulsion:

3 Boilers
2 Westinghouse Turbines: 50,000 horsepower

Highest speed on trials: 38.7 knots

Namesake: JAMES BUCK

JAMES BUCK

Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships, November 2021

James Buck was born at Baltimore, Md., in 1808 and enlisted in the Navy in 1852. He was awarded a Medal of Honor for his heroic service during the Civil War on board the steamer Brooklyn where, though severely wounded, he stood at the wheel for eight hours and steered the vessel during the engagement with Forts Jackson and St. Philip on the Mississippi River. He died in Baltimore on 1 November 1865.


Disposition:

Sunk 10/09/1943 by submarine torpedo, in Italian area, at 39 deg 48 min N., 14 deg 36 min E.


A Tin Can Sailors Destroyer History

USS BUCK DD-420

The Tin Can Sailor, April 2000

Naval hero James Buck served during the Civil War. Despite severe wounds, he remained at the wheel of the steamer BROOKLYN throughout an eight-hour battle on the Mississippi. The destroyer bearing his name was launched on 22 May 1939 and was commissioned on 15 May 1940. Except for brief service with the Pacific Fleet in the spring of 1941, she operated as part of the Atlantic Fleet, serving on convoy escort duty between the U.S. and Iceland and along the eastern seaboard. She continued on escort duty after the U.S. entered the war and steamed between the East Coast and ports in Newfoundland, Iceland, Northern Ireland, North Africa, and the Caribbean.

On 22 August 1942, during one of these crossings, the BUCK was screen flagship for a convoy steaming east out of Halifax, Nova Scotia. At 1730, the sonar on the troopship LETITIA registered a contact. The destroyers SWANSON and INGRAHAM were sent to investigate and could only surmise that the LETITIA’s sonar man had mistaken a school of porpoises for an enemy sub. With the danger past, the three ships headed back to their positions with the convoy. By that time, a dense fog had rolled in reducing visibility to thirty yards. Ordered to escort the LETITIA to her proper station, the BUCK was crossing through the column at 2225, when a ship loomed out of the fog. Before her lookout could shout a warning, the transport AWATEA plowed into the destroyer’s starboard quarter. The impact cut about two thirds through the BUCK’s fantail, broke her keel, and dislodged a 300-pound depth charge, which exploded, further damaging the ship’s fantail and propellers. Seven of the BUCK’s crew died as a result of the collision and ensuing explosion.

The disastrous chain of events had not ended, however. Moments after the BUCK careened away from the AWATEA, her crew was shaken by a tremendous explosion in the general direction of the oiler CHEMUNG. They immediately assumed the oiler had been torpedoed. Not so. Steaming through the blinding fog to investigate the collision of the BUCK and AWATEA, the INGRAHAM had run directly into the path of the CHEMUNG, which tore into the smaller ship. The collision set off her depth charges causing a massive internal explosion. The CHEMUNG backed away, her bow scorched by the blast and several of her crew injured, but any attempt to rescue the crew of the INGRAHAM was out of the question. There was no getting close to the blazing ship. Only ten sailors and one officer escaped.

Meanwhile, the BUCK was floundering with both propellers out of commission. Within a few hours, the port propeller dropped off and eventually, the fantail section, held on only by lines and wires, had to be allowed to sink before it damaged the hull. Taken in tow first by the CHEMUNG and then by the CHEROKEE (AT-66), the BUCK finally reached Boston. Upon completion of repairs in November, she returned to escort duty until June 1943.

Her assignment that month took her to North Africa for patrol duty off Tunisia and Algeria. A month later, as the flagship of Destroyer Squadron 13 with Task Force 86, she participated in the invasion of Sicily. On the morning of 10 July, her squadron, which included the WOOLSEY, LUDLOW, EDISON, BRISTOL, WILKES, NICHOLSON, SWANSON, and ROE, joined the cruisers BROOKLYN and BIRMINGHAM in shelling shore batteries at Licata and fighting off Axis air attacks. The BUCK continued her bombardment, screening, and patrol duties until August. Then, on the evening of 2 August, she and the NICHOLSON were detached to escort a convoy of six liberty ships from Sicily to Algeria. En route, the BUCK’s radar picked up a surface vessel about 5,500 yards distant. When the “pip” suddenly disappeared from the radar screen, her skipper, Lieutenant Commander M. J. Klein, figured they’d surprised a submarine and ordered a search. By 2300, the BUCK had closed to 700 yards, and her sonar confirmed that they did, indeed, have a submarine. During the hunt, Klein called for three depth charge attacks, which finally brought the enemy sub to the bottom, and the BUCK moved in to pick up forty-five survivors from what they learned was the Italian submarine ARGENTO.

After escorting a convoy to the U.S., the BUCK returned to the Mediterranean in late September 1943 for the invasion and occupation of Italy. During the night of 8/9 October 1943, she was on duty patrolling the approaches to Salerno. Shortly after midnight, she made radar contact and all hands prepared to hunt the enemy down. The enemy, however, already had targeted the BUCK. Two torpedoes tore into her bow and the subsequent explosions caused such devastation that the ship had to be abandoned within three minutes after she was hit. She sank a minute later taking some 150 of her crew with her. Among those lost was her captain. Ninety-seven of her crew were pulled from the water by the GLEAVES (DD-423) and the British LCT-170.

USS BUCK DD-420 Ship History

Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships, November 2021

The second Buck (DD-420) was launched 22 May 1939 by Philadelphia Navy Yard; sponsored by Mrs. Julius C. Townsend, wife of Rear Adm. Julius C. Townsend, and commissioned on 15 May 1940, Lt. Cmdr. Horace C. Robison in command.

After shakedown training, Buck joined the Atlantic Fleet for a brief period before augmenting the Pacific Fleet from February until June 1941. On 1 July, as part of Task Force (TF) 19, Buck got underway for Argentia, Newfoundland, where she joined a convoy carrying the First Marine Brigade (Provisional) to Reykjavik, Iceland. After landing the marines there on 7 July, the destroyer began convoy escort duty between Iceland and the United States.

With the entry of the United States into World War II in December 1941,  Buck continued to serve as a convoy escort, steaming from the seaports of the eastern United States to ports in Newfoundland, Iceland, Northern Ireland, North Africa, and the Caribbean. As a convoy escort warship, Buck screened ships from enemy attack, pursued unidentified surface and undewater contacts and shepherded merchantmen to keep them in formation while underway.

While escorting a convoy during a dense fog off Nova Scotia on 22 August 1942, Buck was struck starboard side aft by British transport Atwatea while trying to escort another vessel to her correct position in the convoy. The impact broke Buck‘s keel and sliced about two-thirds through the fantail. Seven sailors were killed in the collision. As the starboard propeller was wrecked, and the port propeller damaged, the destroyer maintained steerway only with difficulty as the crew tried to secure the fantail with lines and wires. When the port propeller fell off a few hours later, leaving the destroyer helpless, the fantail was cut loose since wave action was battering and chafing the hull. To make matters worse, as destroyer Ingraham (DD-444) closed to assist she was mortally damaged by a collision with oiler Chemung (AO-30). After rescuing the survivors from Ingraham, the oiler managed to take Buck under tow until relieved by Cherokee (AT-66). Buck reached Boston on the 26th, where she underwent repairs until November. Upon completion of yard work she returned to Atlantic convoy escort duty that winter, guarding convoys to European waters into June 1943, when she was ordered to the Mediterranean for patrol duty out of Tunisian and Algerian ports.

Assigned to the Western Naval Task Force on 8 July 1943, Buck performed bombardment, screening, and patrol duties during Operation Husky, the invasion of Sicily (10 July 1943). On 10 July, the destroyer escorted a landing convoy of tank landing craft (LCT) to the beach before retiring to escort follow-on convoys to Sicily. On 3 August, while escorting a convoy of six cargo ships from Sicily to Algeria, Buck spotted the Italian submarine Argento making a reconaissance patrol off the Sicilian coast. The destroyer pursued and forced the submarine to surface after three depth charge attacks. The Italians quickly abandoned ship under the destroyers’ heavy gunfire and the submarine sank at 36°52′ N., 12°08′ E., with Buck taking 45 of her crew of 49 as prisoners.

After escorting a convoy back to the United States, the destroyer returned to the Mediterranean in late September 1943 in support of Operation Avalanche, the landings at Salerno, Italy. Following the landings, the destroyer patrolled off the coast to protect the delivery of reinforcements and supplies to southern Italy. While on patrol off Salerno on 9 October, Buck was ambushed just after midnight by German submarine U-616 and hit forward starboard by at least one and possibly two torpedoes. The warship flooded quickly, settling down forward and sinking within four minutes. Although most of the depth charges were set to safe before the destroyer was abandoned, a severe underwater explosion killed and wounded sailors in the water. Spotted by friendly aircraft the next morning, 97 survivors were rescued by Gleaves (DD-423) and the British LCT-170 the following evening.

Buck received three battle stars for her World War II service.