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Site Last Updated October 2016

Ships of the United States Navy in Cork Ireland during World War One
(For fleet list click here)

(Cassin Class, 1913)

USS Downes in wartime colours, in Cork Harbour.

USS Downes, arrived in Queenstown (now Cobh) in the south of Ireland, on the 17th of November, 1917. Queenstown  was the centre for anti-submarine forces, on the Western Approaches, under the command of Admiral Lewis Bayley, Commander in Chief , Coast of Ireland. The Downes commenced operations immediately.

Initially there was uncertainty as to the most effective use of  destroyers. At first they were given patrol areas which they would scout, singly or in pairs. Any stray incoming merchantmen seen, were to be escorted to near their destinations. This was a most ineffective use of the force, as the chances of coming across, and destroying a lone submarine in the vastness of the Western Approaches was virtually nil.

By Summer 1917, under the urging of commanders such as Admiral Sims, Commander of US Naval Forces in Europe, the convoy system was initiated. Groups of merchantmen were escorted through the war zone by flanking destroyer screens. This had the dual effect of reducing the amount of targets for German u-boats, and allowing destroyers and sloops to attack the harassing submarines.  The priorities of the destroyers were to:

Destroy Submarines.

Protect and escort Merchantmen.

Save the crews and passengers of torpedoed ships.

Anti-submarine patrols did continue also for the duration of the war, especially in the Irish Sea and close to the coast of France, where u-boats would try to sink merchantmen as the convoys dispersed.  In 1918, any destroyer in the Irish Sea, which was not actively convoying, came under the orders of The Irish Sea Hunting Flotilla, under the command of Captain Gordon Campbell VC based in Holyhead, Wales.  US destroyers  were also used to patrol the west coast of Ireland to hunt suspected gun-running ships, for Irish Republicans.

The destroyers , initially, were ill-equipped to fight submerged submarines. When they arrived in Europe they were armed with guns and torpedoes. The only undersea weapons supplied were single hand-launched 50lb depth charges which were particularly ineffective. It was the later fitting of dual depth charge racks on the sterns of the ships, Thornycroft depth charge throwers, and Y shaped charge throwers that turned them into a dangerous force. These were capable of dropping and firing a continuous patterned barrage  of 200lb, charges around a submarine's suspected position. Most of the retro-fitting of these armaments was done at Cammel Laird in Birkenhead, England.

On December 14th, 1917, USS Downes was proceeding on  Irish Channel patrol, with McDougal. At 12.59pm, after clearing the Daunt Channel, Downes sighted submarine on the surface. Submarine submerged and Downes was unable to follow any signs of the enemy.

On the week of 15th of January, 1918, USS Allen and Downes escorted SS Philadelphia from 48.50N, 16.00W to Liverpool  

On the 21st of February, 1918, in position 54.00N, 04.57W, USS Downes sighted conning tower of submarine, dropped two depth charges- no result seen.  

On 16th Mar, 1918, in pos, 52.49N, 05.30W, Periscope of submarine sighted by three destroyers and sloop. All four –Allen, Downes. Rowan, and HMS Aubretia dropped depth charges, results were inconclusive.

Commander Buchanan received a letter of commendation from Admiral Bayley, for exceptional smart performance, on March 20, 1918, in getting USS Downes underway quite unexpectedly.

On the 23rd of July, 1918, in position 50.41N, 08.36W, at 15.40hrs. HMS Marmora was torpedoed. USS Stockton USS Downes, tugs Warrior and Cynic went to her assistance. Marmora eventually sank at 17.35hrs. Survivors were taken to Milford Haven by HMS P67. USS Sterett searched for raft supposed to contain one man.

On the 25th of July 1918, USS Downes escorted SS Morinier from 12.30W, to Berehaven.  
On the
27th of July  1918 USS Downes escorted SS Gaspesian from 15.00W to Liverpool.  

03rd August 1918, USS Stockton, Downes, Sampson, Cassin, and Ammen, escorted HMS Mauretania from 15.00W, to Liverpool.  
On August 15th 1918 ,USS Downes, was escorting incoming convoy HC 12.  At 6.ooam the British Scout Class airship  SSZ51, was sighted coming out from the land on the starboard beam of the convoy. She circled the convoy once and then passed down the portside of the convoy where USS Downes was escorting.  

USS Downes observed that she apparently required assistance, and proceeded promptly to her assistance. As the airship alighted on the sea surface, USS Downes secured her. This action saved the airship from destruction and saved the lives of the crew.  She towed the SSZ51 into Holyhead.  

The Officers and crew of USS Downes were highly commended by the Btitish Admiralty for this action.

On the 24th August 1918, USS Conyngham, and Downes escorted SS Orca from Berehaven to 14.00W

On the 6th of October 1918, USS Shaw,Downes, Conyngham, Duncan, and Kimberley, escorted HMS Aquitania from Westward to Southampton.  

On the 22nd of October 1918, USS Stevens, Downes, Conyngham, Terry, and Duncan, escorted HMS Olympic from Westward to Southampton.

On the 12th of December Downes joined the review of ships in Brest, France, by US President Woodrow Wilson.

On the 26th of December, 1918. The last of the United States destroyers departed Queenstown (Cobh), on route to the USA, via the Azores. They were the Beale, Stockton, Wilkes, Duncan, Rowan, Kimberley, Allen, Davis, Sampson and Duncan. The ships were accompanied by the US tug Genesee. The press reported that the harbour was full of the whistles of other ships as the destroyers, flying their pennants were overflown by US Flying boats as they disappeared into the morning fog.

The only United States Naval Ship remaining in harbour, by this date, was USS Melville, the destroyer tender, and Flagship of Admiral Sims.

Commanding Officer, Commander Allen Buchanan,  1918

The US Naval History and Heritage Website has a comprehensive history of this ship, which can be found at

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Site created 24th September 2002