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Hull Number: DD-424

Launch Date: 05/18/1940

Commissioned Date: 08/01/1940

Decommissioned Date: 06/01/1946



Data for USS Gleaves (DD-423) as of 1945

Length Overall: 348’ 4"

Beam: 36’ 1"

Draft: 13’ 6"

Standard Displacement: 1,630 tons

Full Load Displacement: 2,525 tons

Fuel capacity: 2,928 barrels


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


16 Officers
260 Enlisted


4 Boilers
2 Westinghouse Turbines: 50,000 horsepower

Highest speed on trials: 37.4 knots



Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships (Published 1980)

Albert Parker Niblack, born in Vincennes, Ind., 25 July 1859, was appointed to the Naval Academy 22 September 1876; graduated 10 June 1880; and was assigned to Lackawanna. During the decades that followed, Niblack served on many ships and held several interesting posts ashore including work with the Smithsonian Institution, duty in the Bureau of Navigation, and a tour in the Office of Naval Intelligence. He won his first command, Iroquois, 10 February 1904, and subsequently commanded some of the Navy’s most famous ships including Hartford and Olympia. He was naval attache to Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Germany and The Netherlands, and served as a member of the General Board. When the United States entered World War I, he took command of Division 1, Atlantic Fleet, with Alabama as flagship 5 April 1917, and was appointed Rear Admiral 31 August. Niblack assumed command of Squadron 2, Patrol Force, 23 October and served in this post through the Armistice. He became Director of Naval Intelligence 1 March 1919, and Naval Attache in London 6 August 1920. As Vice Admiral, he commanded U.S. Naval Forces in European waters 15 January 1921 to 17 June 1922. After commanding the 6th Naval District at Charleston, S.C., Vice Admiral Niblack retired 25 July 1923. He died at Monte Carlo, Monaco 20 August 1929


Stricken 7/31/1968. Sold for scrap 8/16/1973

A Tin Can Sailors Destroyer History


The Tin Can Sailor, July 1997

USS NIBLACK was the second of the GLEAVES class destroyers to be laid down at the Bath Iron Works, Maine, yard. She would be launched on May 18, 1940 and commissioned the following August.

DD-424 was named for VADM Albert Parker Niblack, a director of Naval Intelligence and commander of U.S. Naval Forces in Europe during the volatile period following World War I. He would return to the United States to take Command of the 6th Naval District in Charleston, South Carolina, before retiring.

USS NIBLACK completed her shakedown and training exercises in the Caribbean just in time to be pressed into service. By July 1941, conditions in the Atlantic had deteriorated. The “neutrality patrol” had become hazardous duty; German submariners became bolder as American escorts were required more and more to sail into “harm’s way.” After her first trip to Argentia, Newfoundland, as an escort, NIBLACK was ordered to screen the first convoy carrying American troops to Iceland. The new destroyer was to scout the area before troops were landed. During one sweep, DD-424 spotted the survivors of a torpedoed British merchant ship. As she slowed to rescue the men, an enemy submarine was detected preparing to attack the destroyer. The depth charge attack that drove off the attacking U-boat may have marked the first action between United States and German forces in World War II. In a subsequent action, NIBLACK was present in the screen of convoy HX-156 on October 31, 1941, when U-552 fired the torpedo which sank USS REUBEN JAMES (DD-245).

NIBLACK seemed destined to be a convoy escort for her entire career. After war was declared, the destroyer found herself screening the dozens of convoys plodding to Iceland and the British Isles. When conditions became critical in the Caribbean and vital oil supplies were being choked off, NIBLACK was moved south, only to return to the North Atlantic when the convoy battles became critical.

DD-424 was ordered to African waters in November 1942, to support Allied landings in Morocco. With a brief respite for refitting, she would remain along the African coast and in the Mediterranean for more than two years.

The campaign that helped to liberate Italy and Southern France featured some of the most dramatic naval operations of World War II. Variety marked destroyer actions in the Italian campaign. They would fight off air attacks, screen convoys, confuse robot bombs, blast shore installations, trade fire with enemy tanks, splinter enemy speed boats, evaporate E-boats, sink submarines, and perform such an assortment of other, sometimes mundane but nonetheless important tasks that adequate description is almost impossible. NIBLACK was there.

In a classic destroyer operation, NIBLACK and USS LUDLOW (DD-438) would end the career of U-960 and the veteran U-boat commander Gunther Heinrich. As action in the Mediterranean escalated, Hitler ordered more and more of his seasoned submarine crews into the “wine-dark sea.” Experienced submariners favored the “choke point” at the eastern end of the Straits of Gibraltar, between Cartagena in neutral Spain and Tenes, a coastal Algerian town. In a space of approximately 150 miles, all shipping routes would converge to transit the Straits. The water was deep enough to offer some chance to escape and the width of the sea allowed for some maneuverability. It presented a risk, but, to a commander like Heinrich, with months of experience in the North Atlantic, the challenge seemed acceptable. He had not counted on the superb teamwork of Allied anti-submarine forces.

U-boats had taken a terrific toll in merchant vessels over the past several months and Allied forces were at a high state of alert. Captain A. F. Converse and a squadron of U.S. destroyers were returning from the hunt that had marked the end of Kapitan Siegfried Koitschka’s U-616 when they crossed the bow of Heinrich’s “canoe.” He ordered a spread of three torpedoes, missing Converse’s flagship, USS ELLYSON (DD-454). The German had given away his position, and most anti-submarine forces in the region were drawn to the marker dropped by USS GLEAVES (DD-423).

On May 18, 1944, a coordinated search began. Two groups were dispatched to the general area. British patrol aircraft reported a suspicious radar contact within ten miles of one of the groups, composed of USS LUDLOW (DD-438) and USS NIBLACK. The destroyers began their one-two punch at the submarine at about 0300 and continued for nearly four hours. Taking turns, the tin cans completed eleven separate depth charge attacks on the reckless submarine. By 0700, damage forced the submarine to the surface and, as she broached, stern-first, the destroyers blasted at her conning tower. A supporting British search plane dropped a stick of bombs on the foundering vessel, and the sub went down again. NIBLACK swept in to drop another ten-depth-charge pattern. U-960 was blasted to the surface again. In twenty minutes, the submarine made her final dive. There were twenty survivors.

NIBLACK would return to the coast of France to support operations of the First Airborne Division, where her accurate fire support was vital to the success of several actions. Frequently, she found herself dueling with the monstrous coastal batteries at St. Mandrier and St. Elmo. She should have been easily outclassed, but she survived. At the end of the campaign, she had been credited with scores of fire support missions, destruction of 43 mines, the destruction of a German torpedo boat and the damage of four others.

NIBLACK returned to the States in early 1945 to prepare for operations in the Pacific. An extensive training program and a refit delayed DD-424’s deployment and, by the time the veteran destroyer was ready to battle a new enemy, the war was over.

Following service with forces occupying Japan, NIBLACK was ordered to Charleston, South Carolina, where she was decommissioned. She was then transferred to the Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Navy yard where she remained in reserve status until stricken from the Navy List on July 31, 1968.

USS NIBLACK DD-424 Ship History

Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships (Published 1981)

Niblack was laid down 8 August 1938 by the Bath Iron Works Corp. Bath, Maine; launched 18 May 1940; sponsored by Mrs. Albert P. Niblack, widow of Vice Admiral Niblack; and commissioned 1 August 1940, Lt. Comdr. E. R. Durgin in command.

After shakedown and training in the Caribbean, Niblack made her first convoy trip to Argentia, Newfoundland. In July 1941 she escorted the task force which landed the American occupation troops in Iceland. However, before the actual landings, Niblack made preliminary reconnaissance. On 10 April 1941, as she was nearing the coast, the ship picked up three boatloads of survivors from a torpedoed merchantman. When a submarine was detected preparing to attack, the division commander ordered a depth charge attack which drove off the U-boat. This bloodless battle apparently was the first action between American and German forces in World War II. On 1 July 1941, Niblack sailed from Argentia with the occupation force, arriving on 7 July.

The destroyer continued escort duty and, with four other destroyers, was escorting a fast convoy across the Atlantic when, on 31 October 1941, a German U-boat’s torpedo struck Reuben James (DD-245) blowing her in half the first United States naval vessel to be lost in World War II. Only 45 survivors were picked up.

After Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor pushed America officially into the war 7 December 1941, the Niblack continued to escort North Atlantic convoys to Reykjavik, Iceland, Londonderry, Ireland, and Greenock, Scotland. In July 1942 she was transferred to the Caribbean for temporary duty at the height of the U boat campaign there, resuming northern duty in August. In November 1942, she escorted the first support convoy to Casablanca after the Allied landings on the Moroccan Coast. The ship then performed coastal convoy escort duty until departing early in May 1943 for Mers-elKebir, Algeria.

During the invasion of Sicily she performed escort duties and screened the minelaying operation near Gela. She escorted troop ships into Syracuse harbor the day after British troops captured the city. During this operation German torpedo boats attacked Niblack and PC-556 under cover of a dense smoke screen. The American ships drove off the E-boats by gunfire after the enemy craft had fired three torpedoes which missed and exploded near the harbor breakwater.

The destroyer supported the advance of the Allied ground forces across Sicily and entered Palermo Harbor following its capture. Shortly after the rout of the Germans across the Strait of Messina, Niblack, with Boise (CL-47), Philadelphia (CL-41) Gleaves (DD-423), Plunkett (DD-431) and Benson, (DD-421) sortied from Palermo on the night of 17-18 August 1943, and proceeded at high speed to the Italian coast for the first bombardment of the Italian mainland by U.S. Naval Forces.

The ship took part in the landings at Salerno 9 September 1943. She served at first in the screen, but when the situation ashore became desperate, she joined the fire-support destroyers. On 16-17 September she conducted eleven call-fire support missions. American forces advancing after the bombardment sent back reports of the complete destruction of enemy men and material in Niblack’s target areas.

Later in the Salerno campaign the ship screened cruiser Philadelphia during the radio-controlled bomb attacks which damaged Philadelphia and Savannah (CL-47). On 27 October the Niblack and Brooklyn (CL-40) bombarded enemy coastal guns far behind the front lines in the Gulf of Gaeta, Italy, to pave the way for Allied ground forces.

On 11 December 1943, Niblack joined the HMS Holcombe in a search for a German U-boat whose torpedoes had sunk several freighters off Bizerte the day before. U-593 struck first however, and blew up Holcombe with an acoustic torpedo. Niblack rescued 90 survivors and transferred them to an Army hospital ship that night. During the transfer, she spotted antiaircraft fire from the submarine against a British patrol plane and directed Wainwright (DD-419) and HMS Calpe to the scene, where they sank U-593.

Four days later, when a liberty ship was torpedoed near the harbor entrance at Oran, Niblack and Mayo (DD-422) searched for the submarine. They had narrowed down the search to a small area when they were relieved by the Woolsey (DD-437), Edison (DD-439), and Trippe (DD-403), who subsequently sank U-73.

After a month in Task Force 86, the ship was ordered to support the landings at Anzio. During this invasion the ship commanded the beachhead screen, and fought off simultaneous attacks by dive and torpedo bombers, E-boats, and human torpedoes. From 22 to 29 January 1944, the ship repulsed repeated attacks by enemy aircraft and received credit for destroying one plane and probably splashing two others. During one attack, two ships of her division, DesDiv 13 were put out of action, Plunkett by a 550-pound bomb and Mayo by a mine.

In February, Niblack returned to New York for a brief overhaul, but was back on duty in the Mediterranean in May. The enemy driven from Sicily, North Africa, and Southern Italy intensified his submarine and air attacks on Allied shipping along the African Coast.

One of the audacious U-boats made the mistake of firing at a hunter-killer group which had just finished off another enemy U-boat. These American ships had begun the work of rooting the sub out, but were soon relieved by Woolsey, Madison (DD-425), Benson, Ludlow (DD 438) and Niblack. Niblack and Ludlow worked together in the hunt, which began 18 May 1944.

British planes picked up the sub by radar at 0240 the next morning and Niblack and Ludlow raced to investigate. Establishing sonar contact, the two destroyers dropped eleven depth charges, forcing the sub to the surface. As she started down again both ships opened fire, while the planes dropped bombs close aboard. When the target had gone under again, Niblack rushed in to hit her again with ten more ash cans. Coming up once more, U-960 turned nose down and made her final dive, leaving 20 survivors who were promptly captured.

The summer months of 1944 were spent in fighter-director training. Gleaves and Niblack qualified as the only two fighter director destroyers in the 8th Fleet, and directed French and British planes in repelling the intense German torpedo plane attacks against Allied convoys during the invasion of Southern France.

The initial landings on 15 August 1944 met little resistance, and for several days the ship controlled the routing and dispatching of all outbound convoys, taking her place in the outer screen at night. On 20 August she joined the inshore screen for Quincy (CA-71), Nevada (BB-36) and Omaha (CL-4) during the siege of Toulon. She was frequently taken under fire by the large coast defense batteries of St. Mandrier and St. Elmo and escaped damage from several near misses.

Following the capture of Marseille and Toulon, she was assigned to Task Force 86 and later to “Flank Force,” the Allied Naval forces which provided fire support for the 1st Airborne Division on the Franco-Italian frontier. During the periods 4 to 17 October and 11 to 25 December 1944, the ship completed numerous fire support missions, operating under the constant threat of explosive boats, human torpedoes, and floating mines. The ship also sank 43 mines, destroyed one German MAS boat, and damaged four others in the harbor of San Remo, Italy.

Niblack next returned to Oran to serve as flagship for Commander, Destroyer Squadron 7, (Commander Destroyer 8th Fleet), returning to the Boston Navy Yard in February of 1945. After serving in various antisubmarine groups and as an escort for one convoy from England in April. She transited the Panama Canal 3 July 1945 and proceeded to Pearl Harbor via San Diego. Following a training program, during which hostilities with Japan ended, the ship escorted the occupation group which landed at Sasebo, Japan, 22 September 1945. She then escorted landing forces to Matsuyama, remaining in the Western Pacific for further duties during the occupation period.

By a directive of June 1947, the ship decommissioned; and entered the Atlantic Reserve Fleet at Charleston, S.C. She was subsequently transferred to Philadelphia where she remained until struck 31 July 1968.

Niblack earned five battle stars for service in the European, African – Middle Eastern Areas.