USS Walker (DD-163)

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USS Walker (DD-163).jpg
USS Walker at Boston on 1 February 1919
History
United States
Name: Walker
Namesake: John Grimes Walker
Builder: Fore River Shipyard, Quincy, Massachusetts
Laid down: 19 June 1918
Launched: 14 September 1918
Commissioned: 31 January 1919
Decommissioned: 7 June 1922
Reclassified:
  • YW-57, 1 April 1939
  • DCH-1, 11 July 1940
  • IX-44, 17 February 1941
Struck: 24 June 1942
Fate: Scuttled, 28 December 1941
General characteristics
Class and type: Wickes-class destroyer
Displacement: 1,284 tons
Length: 314 ft 4 12 in (95.8 m)
Beam: 30 ft 11 in (9.4 m)
Draft: 9 ft 2 in (2.8 m)
Speed: 35 knots (65 km/h)
Complement: 101 officers and enlisted
Armament:

The first USS Walker (DD-163) was a Wickes-class destroyer that saw service in the United States Navy during World War I. She was named for Admiral John Grimes Walker.

History[edit]

Walker was laid down on 19 June 1918 at Quincy, Massachusetts, by the Fore River Shipbuilding Company under contract from Bethlehem Steel Co.. The destroyer was launched on 14 September 1918, sponsored by Mrs. Francis Pickering Thomas. Walker was commissioned at the Boston Navy Yard on 31 January 1919 with Lieutenant Commander Harold A. Waddington in command.

Walker got underway on 20 February to rendezvous with the transport George Washington as it returned from France with President Woodrow Wilson. Upon completion of this duty, the new destroyer returned to Boston, where she was soon assigned to Division 18, Destroyer Force. She proceeded to Newport, Rhode Island, and loaded her full allotment of torpedoes at the Naval Torpedo Station. She sailed for the West Indies on 6 March and, soon after her arrival in the Caribbean fell into the Fleet's regular schedule of exercises and maneuvers. Walker conducted tactical exercises off San Juan, Puerto Rico, and gunnery exercises out of Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, into the late winter of 1918 and early spring of 1919 before she headed north.

After steaming into New York Harbor on 14 April, the destroyer was sent to her base at Newport. Early the next month, she supported the Navy's NC-boat transatlantic flights. Initially stationed at Trepassey Bay from 6 May to 8 May, she later operated at sea from 10 to 17 May, serving as one of the chain of picket ships to provide the NC flying boats with position reports and bearings. When this mission was completed, she returned to Newport on 20 May.

After calling at Annapolis, Maryland in early June for a two-day visit during Naval Academy graduation exercises, Walker headed south and transited the Panama Canal on 24 July. She called briefly at Acapulco, Mexico, for two days before steaming for southern California, arriving at Coronado on 8 August.

Based at San Diego, Walker conducted local operations off the west coast into late 1919, when she was assigned to the Reserve Destroyer Flotilla. She embarked naval reservists for an indoctrination cruise on 27 October 1920 and remained in "rotating reserve" duty, conducting periodic target practices, full-power runs, and undergoing overhauls at the Mare Island Navy Yard. Decommissioned on 7 June 1922, as part of an austerity program, Walker was placed in reserve at San Diego, where she remained into the 1930s.

After 16 years on "Red Lead Row," the ship was struck from the Navy list on 28 March 1938 and slated for disposal by sale. Logistics requirements of west coast naval districts, however, resulted in the former destroyer being placed back on the list and earmarked for conversion to a water barge. Redesignated YW-57 on 1 April 1939, the ship was undergoing conversion at the Mare Island Navy Yard when the Navy again decided to change the vessel's role. With the outbreak of war in Europe and the possibility of American involvement in the conflict, the ship was slated for use as a damage control hulk.

Fate[edit]

Designated as the damage control hulk DCH-1 on 11 July 1940, the vessel was based at the Destroyer Base, San Diego, and used for training exercises in formulating and evolving new damage control techniques. In the following year, as the Pacific Fleet's base had been moved from San Diego to Pearl Harbor, plans were made to tow DCH-1 (which had been stripped of propulsion machinery during the initial conversion work to YW-57) to the Hawaiian Islands. On 28 December 1941, while being towed from San Diego, California, to Pearl Harbor, by the oiler USS Neches, DCH-1 was cast adrift and scuttled by gunfire from Neches at 26°35′N 143°49′W / 26.583°N 143.817°W / 26.583; -143.817.[citation needed]

Fiction[edit]

USS Walker was used in the Destroyermen series, written by Taylor Anderson. In the books, Walker and her sister ship USS Mahan are pursued by superior Japanese naval forces after the Battle of the Java Sea and seek refuge in a squall. The squall transports Walker and Mahan to an alternate earth, one where a different evolutionary path occurred. Anderson also uses other decommissioned ships in the series: USS S-19 and the Japanese battlecruiser Amagi.

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