In terms of shipwrecks, Destroyers are probably my favorite types of ships to dive. I think of them as the “utility players” in a Navy. There are many different types and sizes of destroyers, but the general characteristic is that they are designed to escort and protect larger vessels in a fleet, convoy, or battle group. As a point of clarification, a “Destroyer Escort” or “DE-type” (such as the USS Vammen) is generally optimized for anti-submarine warfare whereas a regular “Destroyer” or “DD-type” is a general purpose ship capable of surface, submarine, and anti-aircraft warfare.
I have had the opportunity to dive quite a few Destroyers here in California including the USS Burns, the USS Hogan, the USS Moody and a few overseas as well including the USS Anderson also in Bikini Atoll.
The interesting thing about a Destroyer is the amount and variety of armament (as detailed below for the Lamson). It is really fascinating to see torpedo launchers, depth charges, big guns, anti-aircraft guns, and many other types of armament on the same ship. There is no end to the fun to be had!
I thoroughly enjoyed the dive on the Lamson and would have happily made a second dive on her to explore further. Once again, the conditions were not ideal for pictures given the amount of particulate matter in the water, but I managed to get a few photos.
The USS Lamson (DD-367) was a Mahan-class destroyer that served during World War II. She was laid down in March 1934, launched in June 1936 and commissioned in October 1936. Mahan-class destroyers were 340 feet long and a little over 34 feet wide and carried 158 officers and crew.
She had her shakedown cruises in the Atlantic and Caribbean and then departed Norfolk for San Diego where she performed exercises and training operations. She left for Pearl Harbor in early October 1939 and spent two years on training operations in Hawaii. She was en-route and returning to Pearl Harbor from exercises when the Japanese struck on 7 April 1941.
She helped with patrols, rescue missions, and anti-submarine patrols before being assigned to the ANZAC Squadron in the South Pacific.
She was performing anti-submarine operations and patrol duty in the Fiji iIslands from Mar-Oct 1942. The lead-class Mahan and Lamson attacked some Japanese boats and sank two enemy craft. A month later she joined Task Force 67 during the Battle of Tassafaronga. She then spent 8 months screening convoys en-route to Guadalcanal.
In Aug 1943, she joined Destroyer Squadron 5 to assist with the New Guinea operations. After two months of escort duty, she joined three other destroyers and penetrated 160 miles deep into enemy territory to bombard the main Japanese naval base in New Guinea at Madang. She spent more time in New Guinea before going back for a brief overhaul at Mare Island.
She then went to Eniwetok in Aug 1944 in the Marshall Islands (where Bikini Atoll is also located) and spent two months on patrols and anti-submarine warfare. She left and went to the Philippines to screen and patrol for the massive Leyte assault. She fended off numerous kamikaze attacks on the convoy and on 7 Dec 1944 she downed two Japanese reconnaissance planes before a Japanese fighter aircraft struck her number two stack, injuring seventeen men and killing four.
She went in for extensive repairs in Puget Sound before heading back out spending the rest of the war doing patrol and rescue work off Iwo Jima.
The USS Lamson was sunk during the first “Able” test. She is ship #6 in the diagram below and was 760 yards from the epicenter and was hit broadside.
As mentioned above, destroyers are known for carrying a lot and a large variety of armament. The Lamson as originally configured had the standard Mahan-class configuration of 5 x 5″ guns, 12 x 21″ torpedo tubes, 4 x .50-cal machine guns and 2 x depth charge racks at the stern.
Around 1944, the Lamson (and many others) were reconfigured to have more anti-aircraft firepower and included the following armament. The #3 amidship 5″ / 38-cal gun was removed and replaced with two twin Bofors 40mm guns.
- 1 x Mk33 Gun Fire Control System
- 4 x 5″ 38 cal dual-purpose gun (ground targets & anti-aircraft)
- 12 x 21″ Torpedo Tubes (3 groups of four tubes)
- 2 x Mk51 Gun Directors
- 4 x Bofors 40mm Anti-Aircraft guns
- 2 x Depth Charge racks on the stern
- 4 x K-gun depth charge projectors
The Lamson was the only one of her class that had some further modifications as part of the anti-Kamikaze refit program. She had two waist torpedo tubes removed to provide some weight margin for additional 40mm guns.
That is a heavily armored vessel! It also shows the wide variety of armament and the versatility of a destroyer compared to something like a dreadnought battleship.
The original inboard and outboard profile for her sister ship USS Drayton (DD-366) are below. Note that this configuration reflects a modified configuration. It has 4 of the 5″ guns (two at the bow and 2 at the stern) along with the 40mm AA gun and the depth charge projector racks. I have added some red boxes on on some close-ups to provide better location information.
Here are some close-ups:
The picture below from Navsource shows the Lamson at Mare Island Navy Yard in May 1944 and indicates some of the modifications (white circles and marks). I have further noted the photo in red comments:
As mentioned, diving the wreck is a pure joy for somebody who likes warships. The pictures below are roughly bow to stern with notes below the pictures.
he No2 5″ gun just aft of the first gun and pointing straight up as if attacking Kamikaze aircraft. The defining characteristic of this gun is a really interesting coral “plateau” formation on the tip. Below are a few photos with Bill at the gun. Very cool!
Below is the port side depth charge rack and projector.
At the very stern of the wreck are the depth charge racks with depth charges still in them.