Smith-class destroyer

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USS Smith (DD-17).jpg
USS Smith (DD-17)
Class overview
Name: Smith-class destroyer
Operators: US flag 48 stars.svg United States Navy
Preceded by: Truxtun class destroyer
Succeeded by: Paulding class destroyer
In commission: 1909–1919
Completed: 5
Retired: 5
Preserved: 0
General characteristics
Type: Destroyer
Displacement: 700 tons (normal)
902 tons (full load)
Length: 293 ft 10 in (89.56 m)
Beam: 26 ft 0 in (7.92 m)
Draft: 8 ft 0 in (2.44 m)
Propulsion: 4 Mosher coal-fired boilers
3 Parsons steam turbines
3 shafts
10,362 ihp (7,727 kW) horsepower
Speed: 28.3 knots (52.4 km/h; 32.6 mph)
Capacity: 298 tons (coal) (fuel)
Complement: 4 Officers
83 Enlisted
Armament: Five 3 inch/50 caliber (76 mm) guns
Three 18 inch (457 mm) torpedo tubes

The Smith Class destroyers were first ocean-going destroyers in the United States Navy, and the first to be driven by steam turbines instead of the reciprocating engines fitted in the earlier and much smaller sixteen torpedo boat destroyers ordered in 1898.

The first three of the class were ordered under the Act of 29 June 1906 "to have the highest practical speed, and to cost, exclusive of armament, not to exceed seven hundred and fifty thousand dollars each". The remaining pair were ordered under the Act of 7 March 1907 "to have the highest practical speed, and to cost, exclusive of armament, not to exceed eight hundred thousand dollars each". All five ships were built using the basic Smith design. However, Flusser and Reid are sometimes considered to be Flusser-class ships. Also, since Flusser was completed first, some period documentation refers to the entire class as Flussers.[1]

Unlike the earlier 16 destroyers, these turbine-driven vessels were triple-screw, and all had two widely spaced pairs of funnels except for Smith (which had the first and fourth funnels separated from the middle pair). In 1916, all had their single torpedo tubes replaced by twin mounts while one 3-inch gun was removed. All of the ships served as convoy escorts in World War I, and several attacked U-boats. The latter four vessels were all sold in November 1919 following the end of World War I; Smith survived another two years as a bombing target until scrapped.[2]


These were the first turbine-powered destroyers in US service, and the last to be coal-fired. Surprisingly, turbines were dictated by cost; when bids were opened, all of the turbine-powered proposals were lower than all of the reciprocating proposals.[3] The Smiths were greatly enlarged Truxtuns; at 900 tons full load they were 50% larger. The extra displacement went into increased armament and more powerful machinery to maintain the Truxtuns' 28-knot speed. Also, the coal capacity was increased to 298 tons, nearly half the total full load displacement of the previous class. The increased size and range meant that these were the US Navy's first truly ocean-going destroyers, capable of operating with battleships on long voyages. The seizure of the Philippines in the Spanish-American War and the acquisition of Hawaii, both in 1898, had shown the need for long-range ships. Shortly before the Smith-class entered service, the Great White Fleet of 1907-09 demonstrated that the US Navy was prepared to operate far from home. Ironically, these destroyers would quickly be nicknamed "flivvers" (after the small and shaky Model T Ford) for their small size when the subsequent "thousand tonners" entered service in 1913.[4][5] It was recognized that destroyers would now be fighting other destroyers rather than torpedo boats, and that destroyers also needed more offensive (aka torpedo) capability to take over the torpedo boats' role. This was the beginning of the multiple missions that destroyers would eventually be expected to perform, including anti-submarine warfare beginning in World War I and anti-air warfare beginning in the 1930s.

The ships' steam turbines were direct drive and arranged in a similar manner to Sir Charles Parsons' Turbinia, with a high-pressure turbine on the center shaft exhausting to two low-pressure turbines on the outboard shafts. Cruising turbines were also fitted on the outboard shafts to improve fuel economy at low speeds, a problem that would plague turbine-powered ships until fully geared turbines and higher steam pressures and temperatures were introduced during World War I. To attempt to find a middle ground between the turbines' high efficient speed and the propellers' low efficient speed, the maximum shaft speed was 724 rpm, over twice that of a modern ship.[6]


Compared with the Truxtuns, the gun armament was increased to five 3 inch/50 caliber (76 mm) guns; smaller guns were deleted to maximize the number of larger guns. A third 18 inch (457 mm) torpedo tube was added, and one torpedo reload per tube was provided. In 1916, all had their single torpedo tubes replaced by twin mounts with no reloads, while one 3-inch gun was removed.[7] This was an easy upgrade, as the new design twin mounts actually weighed less than the older single mounts.[8] At least some of the class were equipped with one or two depth charge racks during World War I.[9]

Ships in class[edit]

The five ships of the Smith class were:[10]

Ship Shipyard Laid down Launched Commissioned Decommissioned Fate
USS Smith (DD-17) William Cramp & Sons 18 March 1908 20 April 1909 26 November 1909 2 September 1919 Bombing target until sold 20 December 1921 to Joseph G. Hitner for scrapping
USS Lamson (DD-18) William Cramp & Sons 18 March 1908 16 June 1909 10 February 1910 15 July 1919 Scrapped
USS Preston (DD-19) New York Shipbuilding 28 April 1908 14 July 1909 21 December 1909 17 July 1919 Sold to T. A. Scott of New London, CT for scrapping
USS Flusser (DD-20) Bath Iron Works 1908 20 July 1909 28 October 1909 14 July 1919 Scrapped
USS Reid (DD-21) Bath Iron Works 3 August 1908 17 August 1909 3 December 1909 31 July 1919 Sold to T. A. Scott of New London, CT for scrapping


  1. ^ Friedman, p. 28
  2. ^ Smith class destroyer
  3. ^ Friedman, p. 25
  4. ^ Friedman, p. 22-24
  5. ^ Flivver type destroyers
  6. ^ Friedman, p. 25-26
  7. ^ Smith class destroyer
  8. ^ Friedman, p. 27
  9. ^ Friedman, p. 68
  10. ^ Smith class destroyer
  • Friedman, Norman "US Destroyers: An Illustrated Design History (Revised Edition)", Naval Institute Press, Annapolis:2004, ISBN 1-55750-442-3.
  • Gardiner, Robert, Conway's all the world's fighting ships 1906-1921 Conway Maritime Press, 1985. ISBN 0-85177-245-5.
  • Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships, Volume I. Navy Department 1959 (reprinted with corrections 1964).
  • U.S. Warships of World War I. Paul Silverstone, 1970. Ian Allan Ltd, Shepperton. SBN 7110 0095 6.

See also[edit]

Media related to Smith class destroyers at Wikimedia Commons

External links[edit]