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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)

(Sampson Class, 1916)

USS Rowan at sea

USS Rowan arrived in Queenstown (now Cobh) Ireland, on the 27th of May, 1918.  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.

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.

In the week of 9th of June 1917, USS Rowan and Tucker escorted SS Baltic with General Pershing and staff on board to Liverpool.  

On the 19th of August, 1917,  USS Trippe, USS Rowan, USS Jacob Jones, USS Ericsson,  USS Shaw, and USS Wainwright, were escorting a US Army convoy to St Nazaire, France. At 1.15pm Jacob Jones reported “periscope sighted”. At 1.34pm Ericsson dropped a depth charge, there was nothing further seen. On the 20th of August. Land was sighted near Belle Ile. At 8.17am one of the transports, the USS Finland opened fire with her stern gun. The Rowan and Trippe rushed to the spot and both dropped depth charges. The transports began firing in multiple directions as two French areoplanes flew over the convoy. USS Shaw was narrowly missed by firing and shrapnel landed within 200 yards of her. On later examination it was felt that the ships had been firing at schools of porpoises. The incident became known as the ‘Battle of Belle Ile’ and was an example of how easily crews were fooled into thinking submarines were attacking a convoy.

On the 11th of  October, 1917, USS Rowan was on anti- sub patrol off the Fastnet. A message was intercepted to say that a steamer was being attacked in position 51,57N, 06.36W.  The Rowan arrived off Coningbeg Light Vessel, and found SS Rhodesia had been torpedoed, with USS Wilkes standing by.

The armed trawler Indian Empire was also on the scene with eight survivors on board.

Rowan began searching the vicinity, along with USS Parker and Winslow. They were joined by two British airships. Winslow sighted a periscope and two depth charges were dropped. No results were seen. Indian Empire took SS Rhodesia in tow, and later tug Cynic took over tow.  Rown stood by the Rohodesia until relieved by USS Jarvis.  The Rhodesia sank during the night.

From November 10th to 13th 1917, USS Rowan was escort leader of seven destroyers, protecting inbound troop convoy number 10. This convoy was safely escorted to Brest, France.

On the 27th of December, 1917, USS Rowan was part of escort force for troop convoy number 14, to Brest, France. In an early example of combined forces operating together. Two French aeroplanes joined the convoy escort for the remaining part of the journey, with Rowan on port bow of the leading ship

On the 2nd of January, 1918, in pos 53.22N, 05.04W, USS Rowan sighted Submarine periscope. Rowan was unable to pinpoint exact position, and no attack was made  

On the 12th of January, 1918, USS Allen, with  USS Rowan, USS Burrows, and  Q-Ship HMS Heather  left Queenstown to meet and escort the Homeward bound Dakar Convoy (HD8).During the night 12 to 13th January, the steam casing of a turbo generator on the Rowan burst, killing WM Goodrow, CMM.His remains were buried at sea.   On the 13th of January,the escort joined the convoy,  When the convoy dispersed The destroyer escort returned to Queenstown , arriving at destination at 6pm, 16th January.

On the 17th of January, 1918, USS Rowan escorted HM storeship Industry , safely from Queenstown to Falmouth

On the 21st  of  February, 1918, USS Shaw and Rowan escorted the troop carrier SS St Paul from 30.00N,15.00W to Liverpool

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, result unknown On 16th Mar, 1918, in pos 52.46N, 05.28W, USS Burrows sighted periscope of submarine and dropped four depth charges. Results were inconclusive.  

On 28 May 1918, Rowan joined two other destroyers in attacking a U-boat; dropped 14 depth charges; and had the satisfaction of watching oil cover the surface in the attack area.

On the 27th of August 1918, USS Stockton, and  Rowan escorted SS Defender from Queenstown to Barry Roads  

On the 3rd of  September 1918, USS Rowan, Conyngham, and  Shaw, escorted HMS Olympic from Portsmouth to 15.00W.  

On the 7th of  September 1918, USS Stockton, Shaw, Conyngham, and Rowan, escorted US Battleship Utah from 17.00W to Berehaven.   On the 15th of September 1918, USS Caldwell and Rowan escorted oiler Surah from 17.00W to Queenstown

On the 8th of October, 1918. USS Stockton, Rowan, Davis and sloop HMS Camellia, escorted convoy HH71 to Brest, France.

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. They 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.

USS Rowan arrived in New York on the 7th of January 1919.

Commanding Officer, Commander C.E.Courtney, 1917,
Commanding Officer, Commander D.L Howard, 1917,
Commanding Officer,
Commander F.H. Sadler.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