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USS McDougal  (DD54)
(O’Brien Class, 1914)

USS McDougal in unidentified port, probably Brest, in France

On the 4th of May, 1917, the first squadron of United States destroyers arrived in Queenstown (now Cobh) in the south of Ireland. The group consisted of USS Wadsworth, Conyngham, Porter, McDougal, Davis, and Wainwright.  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 Conyngham commenced operations the following week.

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 the 5th of May,1917, in pos50.03N, 15.26W, and 50.48N, 14.50W USS Mc Dougal reported sighting submarines which submerged.

On the 9th of May, 1917, at 5.06am, in pos 50.35N, 11.30W, USS Mc Dougal was missed by a torpedo. Nothing further was seen.

Submarine was sighted by USS McDougal, on the 15th of May, 1917, in pos 50.03N, 15.26W. The submarine submerged immediately and there was no useful opportunity for attack.  

On the 5th of June, 1917, in pos 52.40N, 14.04W, while escorting Manchester Miller, the latter vessel was torpedoed. 33 survivors were rescued by McDougal, 8 killed in explosion. The British sloop HMS Camellia closed and took vessel in tow., with McDougal escorting. The Manchester Miller sunk whilst in tow.

On the 16th of June, 1917, SS Falloden left Queenstown at 4pm. She was torpedoed 8 miles E by S of Mine Head at 9pm. HMY Beryl, HMS Crocus, and USS McDougal proceeded to her assistance. Ship proceeded under her own steam, with Beryl escorting, but later had to be towed by Crocus. Ship brought safely to Queenstown at noon, 17th

On the 12th of July, 1917, at 5pm, USS Drayton picked up SS Phidias and SS Patani in pos 50.00N, 15.56W. The SS Navarino joined them at 5.30pm. Later sighted two more steamers who also joined the convoy at 7.30pm. At 11pm Conyngham and McDougal joined. Later again USS Patterson who was escorting SS Kansas City joined the other ships. At this point there was a convoy of 6 merchant ships escorted by four US destroyers. Admiral Bayley Commander in Chief, Coast of Ireland, praised the innovative skills of the destroyers in forming up this ‘ad-hoc’ convoy.  

On the 27th of July, 1917, SS Begonia IV was sunk in pos 51.14N, 11.43W. USS McDougal rescued 24 survivors from this ship.  

On the 8th of September, 1917, in pos south of Lizard, USS McDougal sighted submarine near convoy. McDougal dropped depth charge. Large quantities of oil appeared on surface.  

On October 19th , 1917, McDougal was one of the escorts when HMS Orama was torpedoed. The convoy scattered and Mc Dougal endeavoured to re-form the convoy. While doing this, McDougal spotted what was thought to be a submarine wake. A depth charge was dropped but no results seen. The nearest merchant ship, the Clan McLindsay, hearing the explosion thought that they had been torpedoed, and some of the crew abandoned ship. McDougal recovered the boat and brought it back to the Clan McLindsay. The boat however was partially crushed and two men lost getting on board the steamer.

McDougal collided with the British merchantman Glenmorag in the Irish Sea 4 February 1918 and until mid-July underwent repairs at Liverpool.

For the remainder of 1918,  she operated out of Brest, France, as escort for convoys approaching and departing that  port. Following the Armistice, she served as part of the escort for George Washington when the transport arrived at Brest 13 December with President Woodrow Wilson embarked.


Commanding Officer, A.F.Fairfield, 1917,

Commanding Officer, Commander W.T.Conn, 1917,