USS Tucker (DD-374)
USS Tucker off the Norfolk Navy Yard, Portsmouth, Virginia, 2 March 1937
|Builder:||Norfolk Navy Yard|
|Laid down:||15 August 1934|
|Launched:||26 February 1936|
|Commissioned:||23 July 1936|
|Struck:||2 December 1944|
|Fate:||Struck mine off Espiritu Santo, New Hebrides, 4 August 1942|
|Class and type:||Mahan-class destroyer|
|Length:||341 ft 3 in (104.0 m)|
|Beam:||35 ft 6 in (10.8 m)|
|Draft:||10 ft 7 in (3.2 m)|
|Propulsion:||2 General Electric steam turbines|
|Speed:||37 knots (69 km/h; 43 mph)|
|Range:||6,940 nmi (12,850 km; 7,990 mi) at 12 knots (22 km/h; 14 mph)|
|Complement:||158 officers and enlisted men|
|1 × gun director above bridge|
Tucker began her service in 1936. Following shakedown, the new destroyer was assigned to the United States Battle Fleet in San Diego, California, operating along the West Coast and in the Hawaiian Islands. She participated in naval exercises in the Caribbean Sea, and was then reassigned to duty between the West Coast and Hawaii. After a goodwill tour to New Zealand, the ship returned to Pearl Harbor. When the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor on 7 December 1941, Tucker was berthed at the East Loch in Pearl Harbor undergoing overhaul but sustained no damage. Afterward, Tucker escorted convoys between the West Coast and Hawaii. She then did escort work to American Samoa, the Fiji Islands, New Caledonia, and Espiritu Santo, New Hebrides.
Tucker entered the harbor at Espirtu Santo's western entrance, leading the cargo ship SS Nira Luckenbach, unaware they had entered a minefield laid earlier by US Navy minelayers. After striking at least one mine, the destroyer was almost torn in two at the No. 1 stack, killing all three of the crew in the forward fireroom. The rest of the crew survived but Tucker did not. The destroyer slowly settled in the water and sank. An investigation revealed that Tucker had been given no information about the existence of the minefield.
Design and armament
Tucker displaced 1,500 long tons (1,524 t) at standard load and 1,725 long tons (1,753 t) at deep load. The ship's overall length was 341 feet 3 inches (104.0 m), the beam was 35 feet 6 inches (10.8 m), and her draft was 10 feet 7 inches (3.2 m). She was powered by two General Electric geared steam turbines that developed a total of 46,000 shaft horsepower (34,000 kW) for a maximum speed of 37 knots (69 km/h; 43 mph). Her four Babcock & Wilcox or Foster Wheeler water-tube boilers generated the superheated steam needed for the turbines. The ship's design incorporated a new generation of land-based propulsion machinery. Boiler pressures capable of reaching 600 PSI (pounds per square inch) powered high-pressure turbines with double reduction gears, making it possible for the ship's turbines to run faster and more efficiently than previous destroyer designs. Tucker carried a maximum of 523 long tons (531 t) of fuel oil, with a range of 6,940 nautical miles (12,850 km; 7,990 mi) at 12 knots (22 km/h; 14 mph). Her peacetime complement was 158 officers and enlisted men. The wartime complement increased to approximately 250 officers and enlisted men.
Like the other destroyers in the Mahan class, Tucker had a tripod foremast and a pole mainmast. To improve the anti-aircraft field of fire, the tripod foremast was constructed without nautical rigging. In silhouette, the ship was similar to the larger Porter class that immediately preceded her. She was fitted with emergency diesel generators, replacing the storage batteries of earlier destroyers. Gun crew shelters were built fore and aft for the superimposed weapons. A third quadruple set of torpedo tubes was added, with one mount on the centerline and two in the side positions. This required relocating one 5"/38 caliber gun to the aft deckhouse.
The main battery of Tucker consisted of five 5"/38 caliber guns, equipped with the MK 33 gun fire control system. Each gun was dual-purpose, configured for surface and aerial targets. The ship's anti-aircraft battery had four water-cooled .50 caliber machine guns. The ship was fitted with three quadruple torpedo-tube mounts for twelve 21-inch (533 mm) torpedoes, guided by the MK 27 torpedo fire-control system. Depth charge roll-off racks were rigged on the stern of the ship. In early 1942 the Navy began to refit the Mahan-class destroyers with new anti-aircraft armament, although most of the class was not refitted until sometime in 1944.
Tucker, one of the 18 ships constructed in the Mahan-class design, was built at the Norfolk Navy Yard in Portsmouth, Virginia. She was the second vessel to be named for Samuel Tucker, who had been an officer in both the Continental Navy and the United States Navy. Tucker's keel was laid down on 15 August 1934. She was launched on 26 February 1936 and christened by Mrs. Leonard Thorner (relationship unknown). The ship was commissioned in the United States Navy on 23 July 1936, with Lieutenant Commander George T. Howard in command. Following her shakedown cruise in the western Atlantic, Tucker joined the destroyer forces attached to the United States Battle Fleet based in San Diego, California. As part of Destroyer Squadron 3, Destroyer Division 6, she operated with the Battle Force along the west coast and in the Hawaiian Islands.
In February 1939 she took part in Fleet Problem XX, the naval exercise in the Caribbean that was observed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt aboard the cruiser Houston. As the international situation in the Pacific worsened, the fleet was ordered to return to Hawaiian waters in the early part of 1940. During fleet exercises around Wake Island in June 1940, Tucker buttressed her fuel supply by rigging sails, allowing the ship to proceed at over three knots. She maintained her steerage and lingered on station for several days. Tucker operated between the West Coast and Hawaii through the end of the year. On 14 February 1941, she arrived at Pearl Harbor from San Diego, and then proceeded to New Zealand, arriving at Auckland on 17 March for a goodwill tour. Returning to Pearl Harbor from the South Pacific, she took part in routine exercises at sea before returning to her home port of San Diego on 19 September. After a short stay, Tucker steamed to Hawaii as part of Task Force 19 and began operating again in the Hawaiian Islands in November 1941. Shortly afterwords, she put into Pearl Harbor for an overhaul by a destroyer tender.
When the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor on 7 December 1941, Tucker was moored at berth X-9, East Loch, along with four other destroyers and one destroyer tender: Selfridge, Case, Reid, Conyngham, and Whitney. None of the ships sustained any damage. While all the destroyers were undergoing overhaul, they still managed to open fire on the attacking Japanese aircraft. After completing her overhaul, Tucker patrolled off Pearl Harbor, escorted convoys between the West Coast and Hawaii and then steamed to the South Pacific. With the reinforcement of United States island bases in the Pacific, Tucker escorted the auxiliary ship Wright to Tutuila, American Samoa, as part of the drive to fortify these outposts. The destroyer then escorted her charge to Suva, Fiji Islands, and proceeded to Noumea, New Caledonia. Steaming on for Australia, she arrived at Sydney on 27 April. After taking on fuel, she visited Melbourne, Perth, and Fremantle before heading back to Sydney. With Wright, Tucker returned to Suva, arriving on 3 June 1942. For the remainder of June and into the first week of July, Tucker operated out of Suva; then relieved the cruiser Boise on 10 July to carry out convoy escort duties. On 30 July, the ship arrived at Auckland and the following day steamed for Suva in the Fiji Islands.
Docked at Suva, Tucker received orders to escort the cargo ship SS Nira Luckenbach to Espiritu Santo, New Hebrides. On 1 August 1942, the ships left Suva by a route north of Efate Island and west of Malekula Island. Making their way through the Bruat Channel, both ships set courses to enter the Segond Channel on the final leg of their voyage. On 4 August, Tucker was leading the cargo ship into the harbor at Espirtu Santo. As the destroyer headed into the western entrance, she struck a mine. The mine exploded, nearly tearing her hull in two at the No. 1 stack, killing all three crew members on watch in the forward fireroom. The rest of the ship's company survived. USS Tucker slowly settled in the water. Nira Luckenbach and other vessels quickly rescued the destroyermen from their sinking ship. The stern of the Tucker sank the following morning and a diving party scuttled and sank the bow. Tucker had steamed into the Segundo Channel unaware that the minelayers Gamble, Breese, and Tracy had laid a field of mines at its western entrance. An investigation revealed that Tucker had been given no information regarding the existence of the minefield. She was struck from the Navy list on 2 December 1944.
The wreck site "resembles an underwater junkyard"; the wreck itself was ransacked by salvors both military and private, who removed equipment and valuable metals and did great damage to the ship: "the vessel was torn limb from limb in the attempt to remove brass portholes, copper piping and heat exchangers". Later, sports divers looked for keepsakes. The wreck is in poor state: the two engines are at some distance from it, rubble is everywhere, and it is only barely recognizable as the Tucker. A more attractive dive nearby is the wreck of SS President Coolidge, which sank in the same minefield within three months of Tucker, though it is noted that the wreck of Tucker and MV Henry Bonneaud "ensure variety".
- Friedman 1982, p. 465.
- Friedman 1982, p. 88.
- Roscoe 1953, p. 20.
- Reilly 1983, p. 28.
- Hodges & Friedman 1979, p. 111.
- Friedman 1982, p. 86.
- Hodges & Friedman 1979, p. 145.
- Conway's 1980, pp. 125–126.
- Reilly 1983, p. 30.
- Roscoe 1953, pp. 47–48.
- Roscoe 1953, p. 165.
- Rohwer 2005, p. 184.
- Stone 1997, p. 79.
- Gerken 2013.
- Jackson 2008, p. 190.
- Conway's Maritime Editors (1980). Conway's All the World's Fighting Ships 1922–1946. Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press. ISBN 0-87021-913-8.
- Friedman, Norman (1982). U.S. Destroyers. Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press. ISBN 0-87021-733-X.
- Gerken, Mike (2013). "USS Tucker: A Prestigious Past with an Inglorious End". Wreck Diving Magazine. Retrieved 8 September 2016.
- Hodges, Peter; Friedman, Norman (1979). Destroyer Weapons of World War 2. Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press. ISBN 0-87021-929-4.
- Jackson, Jack, ed. (2008). Dive Atlas of the World. Simon & Schuster. ISBN 9781847733177.
- NHHC. "Tucker". Naval History & Heritage Command. Retrieved 26 April 2016.
- Reilly, John (1983). United States Navy Destroyers of World War II. Poole, Dorset, England: Blandford Press. ISBN 0-7137-1026-8.
- Roscoe, Theodore (1953). U.S. Destroyer Operations in World War II. Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press. ISBN 0-87021-726-7.
- Rohwer, Jurgen (2005). Chronology of the War at Sea 1939–1945. Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press. ISBN 1-59114-119-2.
- Stone, Peter (1997). The Lady and the President: The Life and Loss of the S. S. President Coolidge. Oceans Enterprises. ISBN 9780958665728.
- This article incorporates text from the public domain Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships. The entry can be found here.
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