USS Fletcher in her original layout, 1942.
|Operators:|| United States Navy
West German Navy
|Preceded by:||Gleaves class destroyer|
|Succeeded by:||Allen M. Sumner class destroyer|
|Built:||3 March 1941 to 22 February 1945|
|In commission:||4 June 1942 to 1971 (USN), 2001 (Mexico)|
|Lost:||19 and 6 not repaired|
USS Cassin Young
USS The Sullivans
|Displacement:||2,050 tons (standard)
2,500 tons (full load)
|Length:||376.5 ft (114.8 m)|
|Beam:||39.5 ft (12.0 m)|
|Draft:||17.5 ft (5.3 m)|
|Propulsion:||4 Babcock & Wilcox oil-fired boilers; 2 General Electric geared steam turbines, 30,000 shp (22 MW) each; 2 screws|
|Speed:||36.5 knots (67.6 km/h 42 mph)|
|Range:||5,500 miles at 15 knots
(8,850 km at 28 km/h) 
|Complement:||329 officers and men|
|Armament:||• 5 × single 5 inch/38 caliber guns
• 6–10 × 40 mm Bofors AA guns (early ships carried 4 × 1.1 inch/75 caliber guns)
• 7–10 × 20 mm Oerlikon cannons,
• 10 ×21 inch torpedo tubes (2×5; Mark 15 torpedos)
• 6 × K-guns
• 2 × depth charge racks
The Fletcher class was a class of destroyers built by the United States during World War II. The class was designed in 1939, as a result of dissatisfaction with the earlier destroyer leader types. Some went on to serve during the Korean War and into the Vietnam War.
The United States Navy commissioned 175 Fletcher-class destroyers between 1942 and 1944, more than any other destroyer class, and the Fletcher design was generally regarded as highly successful. Fletchers had a design speed of 38 knots, armed with five 5" guns in single mounts and carrying 10 21" torpedo in twin quintuple centerline mounts. The Allen M. Sumner and Gearing classes were Fletcher derivatives.
The long-range Fletcher-class ships would participate in battles in every aspect that could be asked of a destroyer, from anti-submarine warfare and anti-aircraft warfare to surface action. They could cover the vast distances required by fleet actions in the Pacific. In fact, they served almost exclusively in the Pacific Theater of Operations during World War II, during which they accounted for 29 Imperial Japanese Navy submarines sunk.[not in citation given] In a massive effort, the Fletcher-class ships were built by shipyards across the United States and, after World War II ended, many were sold to the very countries they had fought against: Italy, Germany, and Japan, as well as other navies, where they would go on to have even longer, distinguished careers.
Three have been preserved as museum ships in the U.S., and one in Greece.
The Fletcher class (named for Admiral Frank F. Fletcher) was the largest class of destroyer ordered, and was also one of the most successful and popular with the destroyer men themselves. Compared to earlier classes built for the Navy, they carried a significant increase in anti-aircraft weapons and other weaponry, which caused displacements to rise. Their flush deck construction added structural strength, although it did make them rather cramped.
Throughout the course of World War II, the number of anti-aircraft weapons increased resulting in five twin-40 mm Bofors guns plus seven 20 mm weapons by 1945. Fifty-one were further modified beginning in 1945, replacing the forward torpedo tubes and midships 40 mm twin Bofors with quad mounts for a total of 14 barrels, and the seven 20 mm singles with six 20 mm twins. Three (Pringle, Stevens, Halford) were built (six planned) with aircraft catapults, resulting in the deletion of one 5-inch mount and the after set of torpedo tubes. This alteration was not a success in service and was not repeated. The three destroyers were later converted to the normal Fletcher-class configuration.
Nineteen were lost during World War II; six more were damaged and not repaired. Postwar, the remainder were decommissioned and put into reserve.
With the outbreak of the Korean War many were returned to active duty. During this time 39 were refitted, reducing their overall main armament and the number of torpedo tubes. A new ahead-throwing weapon called Weapon Alpha was installed in many of the ships. Others carried trainable Hedgehogs.
The Fletcher-class destroyer was the first generation of destroyers to be designed after the series of Naval Treaties that had limited ship designs heretofore. The growth in the design was in part answer to the question that always dogged U.S. Navy designs, that being the long range required by operations in the Pacific Ocean. They were also to carry no less than five 5 in (127 mm) guns and ten deck-mounted torpedo tubes on the centerline, allowing them to meet any foreign design on equal terms. Compared to earlier designs, the Fletchers were large, allowing them to absorb the addition of two 40mm Bofors quadruple mount AA guns as well as six 20mm Oerlikon dual AA gun positions. This addition to the AA suite required the deletion of the forward quintuple torpedo mount, a change was under the 4 April 1945 anti-kamikaze program.
They also were much less top heavy than the previous classes, allowing them to take on additional equipment and weapons without major redesign. They had the fortune of catching American production at the right moment becoming "the" destroyer design, and only Fletcher-class derivatives, the Sumner and Gearing classes, would follow it. The first design inputs were in the fall of 1939 from questionnaires distributed around design bureaus and the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations. The design parameters were in the form of the armaments desired of the next destroyer. As such the questions of how many guns, torpedoes, and depth charges were seen as desirable and further asked at what point would the design grow large enough to become a torpedo target instead of a torpedo delivery system. The answer that came back was five 5 in (127 mm) dual purpose guns, twelve torpedoes, and twenty eight depth charges would be ideal, while the idea of returning to the 1500 ton designs of the past was seen as undesirable. Speed requirements varied from 35 to 38 kn (40 to 44 mph; 65 to 70 km/h), and shortcomings in the earlier Sims class, which were top heavy and needed lead ballast to correct it, caused the Fletcher design to be widened by 18 in (46 cm) in the beam. No design can be perfect and the Fletchers were no exception. As with other previous U.S. flush deck destroyer designs, seagoing performance suffered to a degree. This was mitigated somewhat due to deployment in the Pacific.
The class featured enclosed air-case boilers and 80 kW of power available by emergency diesel generators.
Many of the ships were sold to other navies during the mid-1950s, including:
- Argentina: 5
- Brazil: 7
- Chile: 2
- Colombia: 1
- Greece: 6
- Italy: 3
- Japan: 2
- Mexico: 2
- Peru: 2
- South Korea: 3
- Spain: 5
- Taiwan: 4
- Turkey: 4
- West Germany: 6
Any remaining were broken up in the 1970s. The last Fletcher in service, BAM Cuitlahuac (ex-John Rodgers), left the Mexican navy in 2001, meaning the total service life of the Fletchers stretched over almost six decades and into the 21st century.
Four ships have been preserved as museum ships, although only Kidd was never modernized and retains her WWII configuration:
- USS Cassin Young, in Boston, Massachusetts
- USS The Sullivans, in Buffalo, New York
- USS Kidd, in Baton Rouge, Louisiana
- AT (Destroyer of Hellenic Navy) Velos former USS Charrette in Faliro, Greece
- "USS Bush-Fletcher class". Retrieved 2007-04-12.
- Friedman, Norman "US Destroyers: An Illustrated Design History (Revised Edition)", Naval Institute Press, Annapolis:2004, p.111-112.
- Friedman p.472
- Friedman p.111-112
- Friedman p.111-112
- Friedman p.111
- Friedman, p.118
- Friedman, pp.111-112
- Friedman, p.112
- Friedman, pp.112-113
- Friedman, p.111
- destroyerhistory.org: Fletcher class
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Fletcher class destroyers.|
- Fletcher-class destroyers at Destroyer History Foundation
- USS Conway's Official Website, Fletcher class
- Destroyers Online, Fletcher class
- USS Cassin Young website
- Fletcher-class facts, USS Bush website
- Complete Fletcher-class list and photos, USS Abbot website
- "German Navy Fletcher-Class, USS DD-515 Anthony. Pictures and History in English"
- A Sailor's Diary: Artwork, diaries, and letters from a sailor aboard the Fletcher class USS La Vallette