USS Somers (DD-381)
Somers circa 1944, with mid-war armament modifications including removal of No. 3 5-inch mount and one of the three torpedo tube mounts in favor of 40mm and 20mm guns.
|Builder:||Federal Shipbuilding and Drydock Company|
|Laid down:||27 June 1935|
|Launched:||13 March 1937|
|Commissioned:||1 December 1937|
|Decommissioned:||28 October 1945|
|Struck:||28 January 1947|
|Fate:||sold to Boston Metals, Baltimore|
|Class and type:||Somers-class destroyer|
|Displacement:||1850 tons (2905 tons full)|
|Beam:||36 feet 11 inches|
|Propulsion:||52,000 shp; geared turbines, 2 screws|
|Range:||6500 nm@ 12 knots|
USS Somers (DD-381) was a destroyer commissioned in the United States Navy from 1937 to 1945. She was the lead ship of the Somers-class of destroyer leaders and was named for Richard Somers. During World War II, Somers was active in the South Atlantic, the North Atlantic, and the Mediterranean Theater of Operations.
Somers was laid down on 27 June 1935 at Federal, Kearny, New Jersey launched on 13 March 1937; co-sponsored by Miss Marie Somers and Miss Suzanne Somers; and commissioned at the New York Navy Yard on 1 December 1937, CDR James E. Maher in command. Though active for only eight years she acquired an enviable record.
In 1938 she transported a consignment of gold from the Bank of England to New York. On 6 November 1941, she and the cruiser USS Omaha captured the German freighter Odenwald which was carrying 3800 tons of scarce rubber while disguised as the American merchantman Willmoto.
Odenwald was taken to Puerto Rico. An admiralty court ruled that since the ship was illegally claiming American registration, there were sufficient grounds for confiscation. A legal case was started claiming that the crews of the two American ships had salvage rights because the Odenwald crew's attempt to scuttle the ship was the equivalent of abandoning her. The court case, settled in 1947 ruled the members of the boarding party and the prize crew were entitled to $3,000 apiece while all the other crewmen in Omaha and Somers were entitled to two months’ pay and allowances. This was the last prize money awarded by the US Navy.
In January 1943 Somers and USS Memphis (CL-13) moved to Bathurst, Gambia in West Africa to support the Casablanca Conference between President Franklin D. Roosevelt, Prime Minister Winston S. Churchill, and the Free French. At the end of the month Somers relocated to Dakar, Senegal and assisted in escorting the Free French warships Richelieu and Montcalm to the United States. By March Somers was based in Trinidad on patrols to Brazil as before. On New Years Day 1944 Somers intercepted the German blockade runner Westerland, which scuttled itself. In May Somers escorted a convoy to England as part of the buildup for the Normandy invasion.
Somers next participated in the invasion of Normandy as a convoy escort and, in August, the Southern France invasion, providing naval gunfire support as well as serving in the anti-submarine screen. On 15 August 1944, four hours before H-Hour, D-Day, along the French Riviera, Somers encountered and sank the German corvette UJ6081 and the sloop SG21 at the Battle of Port Cros. Following this action, she moved inshore to give gunfire support to the invasion. For two days she bombarded enemy strongpoints off the coast near Toulon with 5 inch (127 mm) shells and then exchanged fire with enemy shore batteries east of Marseilles. Although Somers sustained many hits during this action, she emerged the victor.
For the next month, the destroyer operated in the Mediterranean Sea, visiting ports on the southern coast of France, Ajaccio, Corsica, and Oran, Algeria. She steamed out of Oran on 28 September and arrived in New York on 8 October. Somers was overhauled at the Brooklyn Navy Yard until 8 November, then moved to Casco Bay, Maine, for training. On 23 November, she joined the screen of a Britain bound convoy for the first of four transatlantic voyages which closed Somers' combat service. She returned to the United States on 12 May 1945 at the end of her last voyage to the United Kingdom. For the remainder of the war, Somers operated along the eastern seaboard and, in July, made one summer cruise to the Caribbean to train midshipmen.
On 4 August 1945, she put into Charleston, South Carolina, for overhaul and remained until 11 September. Instead of returning to active duty, Somers reported to the Commandant, 6th Naval District, for decommissioning and disposal. She decommissioned at Charleston on 28 October 1945 and was retained there until removed by her purchaser, Boston Metals of Baltimore, Md., on 16 May 1947. Somers was struck from the Navy list on 28 January 1947.
Somers earned two battle stars during World War II.
- Bauer, K. Jack; Roberts, Stephen S. (1991). Register of Ships of the U.S. Navy, 1775-1990: Major Combatants. Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press. ISBN 0-313-26202-0.
- Friedman, Norman, US Destroyers: An Illustrated Design History (Revised Edition), Naval Institute Press, Annapolis:2004, ISBN 1-55750-442-3.
- Gardiner, Robert and Chesneau, Roger, Conway's All the World's Fighting Ships 1922-1946, Conway Maritime Press, London:1980. ISBN 0-83170-303-2.
- Silverstone, Paul H. (1965). U.S. Warships of World War II. London: Ian Allan Ltd.
- This article incorporates text from the public domain Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships. The entry can be found here.
- Nofi, Al. "The Last "Prize" Awards in the U.S. Navy?" (#205, 20 July 2008). Strategypage.com.
Oldenwald was taken to Puerto Rico. An admiralty court ruled that since the ship was illegally claiming American registration, there was sufficient grounds for confiscation. At that point, some sea lawyers got into the act. Observing that the attempt to scuttle the ship was the equivalent of abandoning her, they claimed that the crews of the two American ships had salvage rights, to the tune of $3 million. This led to a protracted court case, which was not settled until 1947. At that time it was ruled that the members of the boarding party and the prize crew were entitled to $3,000 apiece, the equivalent today of over $25,000 according to the Consumer Price Index, but easily nearly twice that on the basis of the prevailing minimum wage, while all the other crewmen in Omaha and Somers were entitled to two months’ pay and allowances at their then current rate.
- USS Somers photos at Naval History and Heritage Command
- USS Somers photo gallery at NavSource.org
- Somers-class destroyers at Destroyer History Foundation
- Tin Can Sailors @ Destroyers.org – Somers class destroyer article
- Tin Can Sailors @ Destroyers.org – Somers class destroyer specs
- USS Somers and USS Warrington General Information Book with as-built data at Destroyer History Foundation
- "Goldplater" destroyers at Destroyer History Foundation
- 1850-ton leader classes at Destroyer History Foundation