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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)

USS WAINWRIGHT    DD62
( Tucker Class, 1916)

USS Wainwright on builders trials
Picture Source USNHHC

On the 24th of  April,1917. USS Wadsworth , left New York as the flagship of the first six-ship destroyer division dispatched to Europe. She led Porter, Davis, Conyngham, McDougal, and Wainwright into Queenstown, Ireland, on the 4th of May. They began patrolling the southern approaches to the Irish Sea the next day.   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.

On the 11th of May, 1917, Wainwright   sighted an abandoned lifeboat at about 0800. After investigating the drifting boat for occupants and finding none, she sank the boat with gunfire. At about 0815, a lookout reported that a torpedo had missed the destroyer some 150 yards astern. Wainwright then fired several rounds from her 4-inch guns at what was thought to be a periscope. The supposed submarine immediately disappeared , and was not seen again.

On the 4th of July, 1917, Wainwright  spotted a periscope, soon after,  a torpedo was reported to have passed the ship, five feet astern. Wainwright dropped depth charge, but no results seen.

 On the 20th of August, 1917, USS Rowan dropped depth charge on suspicious oil patch. Oil came to the surface and Wainwright dropped a couple of depth charges as she passed through the faint slick. A few minutes later, she joined other ships in some sporadic gunfire but failed to prove that a submarine was in the area

On the 14th of September, 1917, USS Wainwright was on route from Liverpool to Queenstown. A radio signal was received that a submarine was attacking a steamship 15 miles south of Helvick  Head. Wainwright got to the spot and made acombined search with a British airship, as well as Auxiliary Patrol craft. The conning tower of a submarine was spotted  and Wainwright charged to the attack, but submarine disappeared. Wainwright dropped two depth charges but no results were evident, and submarine was not seen again.

On the 18th of September, Wainwright rescued the crew of the fishing Vessel Our Bairn, from the Coningbeg Light Vessel. Their craft had been destroyed by bombs placed on board by the crew of a German submarine.

On the 18th of  October, 1917, Wainwright was  hunting a reported submarine near Helvick Head.  At 13.58 Hours a conning tower was sighted. The enemy submerged and Wainwright dropped one depth charge.  Further searches proved fruitless.

On the 24th of November, USS Wainwright was on anti-submarine patrol in the Irish Sea, when she collided with the SS Chicago City. She had to return to Mersyside for repairs.

On the 28th of April, 1918, Wainwright spotted a suspected submarine, which submerged. Wainwright dropped four depth charges, but no results were seen. Despite extensive searching, no further trace was seen.

In June 1918, USS Wainwright was transferred out of the Queenstown Command, to Brest, in France. She returned to the USA in January, 1919.

Notes:

Commanding Officer, Lieut Commander F.R.Poteet,1917,
Commanding Officer, Commander R.Daves,1918,





The US Naval History and Heritage Website has a comprehensive history of this ship, which can be found at
http://www.history.navy.mil/research/histories/ship-histories/danfs.html

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