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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 Wilkes  DD67
(Sampson Class, 1916 )

USS Wilkes in Cork Harbour.

USS Wilkes arrived in Queenstown (now Cobh) in the south of Ireland, on the 6th of July, 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 Wilkes commenced operations within a 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.

In the week of the 21st of July, 1917, USS Wilkes and USS Paulding, met and escorted SS Baltic safely to Liverpool.  

On the 25th of July, 1917, USS Wilkes picked up 23 survivors of the SS Purley, sunk in  position 48.08N, 11.35W . On the same day USS Jarvis picked up 32 survivors from the same ship and landed them at Queenstown.

USS Cushing Flagboat, 13th Nov 1917  
report on convoy duty -  
Left harbour of Queenstown Nov 4th at 10am accompanied by Wilkes, Davis and Sampson to meet and escort into Liverpool, USS Huntington and USS St Louis, carrying the Commission from the United States to the Allied onference at Paris. Enroute to rendezvous destination of convoy was changed to Devonport  

Made contact with convoy at rendezvous at 9am, November 6th and escorted them without incident to Devonport. We were met outside Devonport by HMS Hornet which piloted the two cruisers in . Balch and Downes accompanied convoy across and proceeded into Devonport with them.  

On leaving convoy at Devonport received the following signal from the HuntingtonAdmiral Benson thanks you for services and congratulates you and your force for the splendid manner in which your duty was performed.  

On the 15th and 16th of December,1917, USS Wilkes, along with USS Parker, stood by the torpedo-damaged HMS Arbutus. They left her under tow of two tugs, only to hear that the Arbutus had later sunk under tow with the loss of her Captain and Lieutenant.

On the 1st of June, 1918, Submarine fired on USS Sterett, and dived. HMS Jessamine arrived, and dropped two depth charges with no apparent result. USS Wilkes, USS Ericsson , USS Shaw and USS Terry joined up and continued the search, but nothing further was seen.

On the 5th of June, 1918, in position 30 miles north of the Smalls, USS Wilke sighted oil wake and dropped four depth charges. No apparent result.  

On the 13th of June 1918, in position 40 miles south of the Smalls, HMS Patia - Ocean escort of convoy HS42 was toepreoed and sunk. USS Wilke and USS Trippe picked up survivors and landed them at Falmouth.  

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.

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