USS Waters (DD-115/ APD-8)

USS Waters (DD-115/ APD-8) was a Wickes class destroyer that entered service just in time to escort three convoys across the Atlantic during the First World War, and that had a much more active career as a fast transport during the Second World War.

The Waters was named after Daniel Waters, an officer in the Continental Navy, who commanded at least five different ships during the War of Independence, with mixed success.

The Waters was laid down at William Cramp & Sons of Philadelphia on 26 July 1917, launched on 3 March 1918 and commissioned on 8 August 1918 with Lt. Commander Charles F. Russell in command.

Crews of Rathburne, Talbot, Dent, Waters, Lea and Dorsey
Crews of Rathburne, Talbot,
Dent, Waters, Lea

and Dorsey

The Waters was used to escort three convoys across the Atlantic in the last months of the First World War. The first left New York on 11 August and reached Davenport on 23 August. She then escorted four ships on the return voyage, which lasted from 27 August-6 September. The second convoy left New York on 9 September, heading for Ireland, and reached Buncrana on 20 September. She left Buncrana on 28 September and reached New York on 8 October. On 31 October-1 November she sailed to Newport, Rhode Island. The third convoy, of 11 merchant ships, left New York on 4 November. The convoy was three days short of Ponta Delgada, in the Azores, when the war ended on 11 November, and arrived on 14 November. After a brief rest, the Waters left the Azore to return to the United States on 22 November.

Anyone who served on her between 10 August and 11 November 1918 qualified for the First World War Victory Medal.

USS Waters (APD-8) at Puget Sound, 1943
USS Waters (APD-8) at Puget Sound, 1943

The Waters began 1919 with another visit to the Azores, which lasted from 21 January to 17 February. After a brief visit to Cuba she was one of the destroyers chosen to support the trans-Atlantic flight attempt made by four US Navy Curtiss flying boats, and formed part of the picket line of destroyers that lined the route. She was posted between the islands of Corvo and Plores in the Azores, and on 17 May heard the successful aircraft, NC-4, flying overhead. She then took part in the search for NC-1 and NC-3, both of which had been forced to ditch. Both were found intact (not by the Waters) and their crews were rescued, allowing the Waters to return to port.

From mid May to mid July the Waters was based at Newport and New York, and she formed part of the naval escort for the transport George Washington, used by President Woodrow Wilson on two round trips to the Paris peace conference. The Waters was then allocated to the Pacific Fleet, and left New York on 14 July. She took part in the mass passage of the Pacific Fleet through the Panama Canal on 24 July 1919, and arrived at San Diego on 5 August. After six weeks of operations, including one trip to Hawaii, on 21 September 1919 she was placed into the reserve at San Diego.

1920-1922

The Waters was recommissioned on 24 February 1920, and moved to Bremerton, Washington, for a nine month overhaul, which was completed on 30 November 1920. At the start of 1921 she formed part of Division X, along with the Dorsey (DD-117) and Dent (DD-116). In this role she visited Central and South America, and took part in battle practice. In the summer she returned to Bremerton for a second overhaul, this time to prepare her for service in the Far East. On 21 July 1921 she left San Francisco, heading for the Philippines. She reached Manila on 24 August and joined the Asiatic Fleet. She spent most of her time in the Far East in the waters around Luzon, although she did visit Chinese waters in the summer of 1922. On 25 August 1922 she left China at the start of a voyage home, which took her to Nagasaki, Midway and Pearl Harbor. She reached San Francisco on 3 October and San Diego on 23 October. She was decommissioned for the second time at San Diego on 28 December 1922.

1930

The Waters was recommissioned for the second time on 4 June 1930, with Lt Commander Conrad Ridgely in command. She spent the next eighteen months operating along the US west coast. In February-March 1932 she visited Hawaii where she took part in landing exercises, before returning to San Diego on 21 March. She spent the rest of 1932 operating off the west coast, before in January 1933 she was placed in the Rotating Reserve at Mare Island. After six months with a reduced crew she was assigned to Destroyer Division 5, Destroyer Squadron 2, Battle Force Destroyers. She served in that role from July 1933-April 1934, when she began a trip to the Atlantic . This lasted until 25 October, when she returned west through the Panama Canal, and saw her take part in Fleet Problem XV, a large scale three part fleet exercise. After her return to San Diego she rejoined the Rotating Reserve.

The Waters resumed active duties in May 1935, joining DesDiv 19 on the west coast. In the first half of 1936 she was given the latest high frequency directional sonar. In the spring of 1936 she took part in the fleet exercises, this time taking place on the Pacific end of the Panama Canal. In July 1936 she was allocated to the Submarine Force, and moved to Hawaii. Between then and June 1939 Waters and her equally well equipped sister ships in DesDiv 19 were used to develop anti-submarine hunting techniques, operating with the Submarine Force. On 20 June 1939 she departed from Hawaii and returned to San Diego, where she joined the Underwater Sound Training School, and continued to perform the same role.

1941

The Waters was still working with the Sound Training School when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. On the afternoon of the attack she carried out an anti-submarine patrol in the approaches to San Diego, in case the Japanese had even more ambitious plans. On the following day she left San Diego as part of DesDiv 50, the destroyer screen for the carrier Saratoga(CV-3). The Saratoga and her escorts reached Pearl Harbor six days later, and the Waters spent the next ten days patrolling around Pearl Harbor. On 23 December she departed Pear Harbor, heeding back to the West Coast, as part of the escort for the cruisers St. Louis (CL-49) and Helena (CL-50) (returning for repairs). The convoy also carried some of the wounded back to the mainland.

1942

The Waters spent January 1942 patrolling on the California coast. On 31 January 1942 she departed for Alaska, where she spent ten months escorting supply ships from Seattle, Washington to the various bases in Alaska and the Aleutians. At first she was assigned to the 13th Naval District, but she was later transferred to Task Force 8, the Alaskan defence force.

Late in 1942 the Waters was chosen for conversion into a high speed destroyer. She entered the Puget Sound Navy Yard on 19 December 1942 and later in the month became APD-8. The modifications saw her forward boilers removed to make space for more troops. Her torpedo tubes were removed to make space for landing craft. Her old single purpose 4in guns were replaced with more modern dual purpose 3in guns. She also gained a number of 20mm anti-aircraft guns.

1943

The conversion was complete by mid February 1942, and on 17 February the Waters left San Diego, heading for the Pacific theatre. She joined the South Pacific Amphibious Force at Noumea, New Caledonia, on 21 March, then moved to Espiritu Santo for amphibious training, working with the 4th Marine Raider Battalion. After the training was over, she spent a short period operating as a supply vessel. In April she carried some of the men and equipment of Carrier Air Group 11 from Suva, Fiji to Guadalcanal. She then visited Efate, Fiji, Espiritu Santo, American Samoa and finally Auckland, New Zealand, where her crew were allowed to rest from 29 May to 5 June. In June she returned to Guadalcanal, at the start of a long period of operations in the Solomon Islands.

First came Operation Toenails, the invasion of New Georgia. While preparations were underway for this operation she was used for patrols between Guadalcanal and Florida Island, and on 16 June she shot down two bombers during a Japanese air force.

On 20 June the Waters embarked 5 officers and 187 men from the 4th Marine Raider Battalion, who were to take part in the occupation of Segi Point on the southern coast of the main island of New Georgia. The Japanese were threatening Donald G. Kennedy, one of the most active of the coast-watchers, left behind to watch the Japanese after the conquest of New Georgia. The Waters and Dent (APD-9) dropped the Marines at Segi Point early on 21 June and escaped without coming under attack. This foothold was soon expanded to include an airfield, which was ready by mid July!

The Waters's task on D-Day for the main landings, 30 June, was to drop a force of 'Barracuda' scout troops from the 172nd Infantry on the landing beach at Rendova, off the south-west corner of New Georgia. Unfortunately the pre-prepared landing beacons were obscured by the weather, and the Waters dropped her men ten miles from their target. By the time they reached the correct beach it had already been captured by the main invasion force.

Crew of USS Waters (DD-115)
Crew of USS Waters (DD-115)

The Waters then returned to Guadalcanal to pick up more troops, this time a mix of Marines and Army men. These troops were landed at Rice Anchorage, on the north-west coast, on 5 July, and prevented the Japanese troops in the area supporting their colleagues at Munda. Over the next ten days the Waters made two more runs to New Georgia, landing reinforcements at the main base on Rendova. On 13 July she helped escort the damaged cruisers USS Honolulu (CL-48) and St. Louis into Purvis Bay. On 15 July she was sent to search for survivors from USS Helena (CL-50), which had been sunk at the battle of Kula Gulf. On 16 July she rescued 40 officers and men from the Helena. The Waters spent the next month running supplies onto Rendova and New Georgia, and also acted as an escort for the more vulnerable LSTs and LCIs.

In mid-August the Waters was allocated to the forces for the invasion of Vella Lavella, the first of the leapfrog attacks - in this case ignoring Kolombangara, the island to the west of New Georgia. The Waters was one of seven fast transports allocated to the invasion, and on 15 August she was able to land her troops on Vella Lavella. She was attacked by Japanese aircraft early in her return trip, but wasn't damaged. For the next two months she was used to transport replacements, reinforcements and supplies to New Georgia and Vella Lavella and evacuate casualties back to the rear area.

In October the Waters took part in the invasion of the Treasury Islands, just to the south of Bougainville (Operation Goodtime). She landed her troops on 27 October and was back at Purvis Bay on the following day. She didn't take part in the initial landings on Bougainville (Operation Cherryblossom), but transported part of the second wave of troops to the island on 6 November. She then spent two weeks ferrying reinforcements to Bougainville. On 17 November her convoy was attacked by Japanese aircraft, and she claimed a 'Val'. This was her last trip to Bougainville, and at the start of December she departed for Australia, reaching Sydney on 10 December for a period of rest and repairs.

On 20 December she departed for New Caledonia. On 23 December she was ordered to join with the SS Walter Colton and escort her to Noumea, but the merchant ship never turned up. A two day hunt failed to find her, and the Waters returned to Noumea without her (the Walter Colton survived the war, so was simply in the wrong place at this point).

1944

1944 started with a more successful escort mission. This time the Waters was ordered to rendezvous with the SS Sea Barb, and the two ships met up at sea on 5 January and reached Auckland, New Zealand, safely. The Waters then returned to Noumea for a brief spell in dry dock, and then moved back to Purvis Bay.

On 24-25 January the Waters was used as a target ship for Task Force 38/ 58. She was then used to land a reconnaissance force on the Green Islands, on 30-31 January. This raid alarmed the Japanese, who moved some reinforcements to the island, but even so they were overwhelmed when the Allies invaded on 15 February. The Waters took part in the initial landings, and was able to leav the landing area by 8.46am. She made one more trip to the Green Islands in February, carrying a mix of US Navy and Army and New Zealand troops, and two in the first half of March.

On 17 March the Waters landed troops on Emirau in the St. Matthias Islands, an unopposed landing. She spent the rest of March at Purvis Bay. In April she returned to Pearl Harbor, where she underwent repairs. In the first part of May she trained for the upcoming invasion of the Marianas. On 21 May, while moored at Pearl Harbor, a LST exploded close to the Waters. Her crew managed to prevent the fire spreading to her, but she did suffer some minor damage. A number of other LSTs were sunk, and the Waters boats rescued 75 survivors.

On 28 May the Waters left Pearl Harbor. She picked up a force of marines, and joined Task Force 51. She served as the flagship of TransDiv 12 and Task Group 52.8, the Eastern Landing Group (this wasn't as ambitious as it seems, as both units contained the same six APDs). As the Waters's group approached Saipan on the evening of 14 June she detected a submarine, and carried out a depth charge attack that resulted in an oil slick, although she wasn't credited with a victory.

On 15 June, the first day of the invasion of Saipan, the Waters screened the transport area. Her Marines were finally landed on the Charon Kanoa beaches on Saipan early on 16 June, after a secondary landing was cancelled. She then returned to the main transport area, where she and her task group helped screen the transports. These moves was carried out after it became clear that the Japanese were intending to attack in force, but the resulting battle of the Philippine Sea (19-20 June 1944) didn't go according to their plans. The Japanese lost a huge number of naval aircraft during the battle, and although most of their carriers survived, Japanese naval aviation was no longer a major threat. The American defence was so successful that the action didn’t come anywhere near the Waters.

The Waters supported the fighting on Saipan and Tinian into the middle of July. She missed the invasion of Guam while undergoing repairs at Eniwetok. The Waters was then selected for use with underwater demolition teams (UDTs). She joined a task unit centred on the battleships Colorado (BB-45) and Pennsylvania (BB-38), and escorted the Colorado to Pearl Harbor. She then briefly visited San Francisco, before returning to Pearl Harbor to begin training with the UDTs at the end of October.

1945

The training was completed by January 1945, and the Waters joined TG 52.11 (USS Texas (BB-35) and USS Nevada (BB-36)), as it returned to the war zone ready for the invasion of Iwo Jima.

The Waters formed part of the screen for the fire support group at Iwo Jima, beginning from 16 February. She also supported the UDTs as they investigated the invasion beaches.

On 17 February she was one of two destroyers used to physically carry beach charts and members of the UDTs to Carrier Task Force 51, Carrier Task Force 53 and the Attack Force.

On 19 February she screened the transport ships during the invasion. She spent the rest of February off Iwo Jima, supporting the UDTs and carrying out anti-submarine patrols. She departed for Guam on 5 March, and then began to prepare for the invasion of Okinawa.

On 21 March the Waters joined TG 54.2, part of the Gunfire and Covering Force. During the approach to Okinawa she helped distract a 'Val' dive bomber which was attacking the USS Gilmer (ADP-11) on 26 March. During the pre-invasion bombardment she screened the 'old battleships' of the bombardment force, and also supported the UDT teams.

On 1 April she supported Tractor Group 'Fox' (an amphibian tractor or Amtrac unit) during its approach to the beaches. During the first week of April she patrolled off the invasion beaches. On 6 April she and USS Morris (DD-417) shot down a 'Betty', but late on the same day a kamikaze hit the Morris, and the Waters had to help put out the fires. For the rest of the month the Waters supported Mine Squadron 3's minesweeping operations. On 3-4 May she patrolled the transport area, before on 4 May she departed for Ulithi. She was back at Okinawa on 15-18 June and for a final time on 17-18 June.

The Waters was no longer needed as a fast transport, and the decision was made to return her to the US west coast to be turned back into a destroyer (although what use an aging flush deck destroyer would have been in 1945 isn’t clear). On 24 June she dropped depth charges on a sonar contact, but couldn't find it again after the attack. These were her last shots in anger.

The Waters reached San Pedro on 21 July and began an overhaul. On 2 August she resumed her original designation as DD-115. However after the end of the war it was clear that she was no longer needed, and on 12 October 1945 she was decommissioned. On 24 October she was struck off and on 10 May 1946 she was sold for scrap.

The Waters earned seven battle stars during the Second World War, for the Solomon Islands, New Georgia, Treasury-Bougainville, Bismarck Archipelago, Marianas Islands, Iwo Jima and Okinawa Gunto.

Displacement (standard)

1,160t (design)

Displacement (loaded)

 

Top Speed

35kts (design)
35.34kts at 24,610shp at 1,149t on trial (Wickes)

Engine

2 shaft Parsons turbines
4 boilers
24,200shp (design)

Range

3,800nm at 15kts on trial (Wickes)
2,850nm at 20kts on trial (Wickes)

Armour - belt

 

 - deck

 

Length

314ft 4in

Width

30ft 11in

Armaments (as built)

Four 4in/50 guns
Twelve 21in torpedoes in four triple tubes
Two depth charge tracks

Crew complement

114

Laid Down

26 July 1917

Launched

3 March 1918

Commissioned

8 August 1918

Decommissioned

12 October 1945

Struck off

24 October 1945

Sold for scrap

10 May 1946

U.S. Destroyers: An Illustrated Design History, Norman Friedmann . The standard history of the development of American destroyers, from the earliest torpedo boat destroyers to the post-war fleet, and covering the massive classes of destroyers built for both World Wars. Gives the reader a good understanding of the debates that surrounded each class of destroyer and led to their individual features.
cover cover cover

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How to cite this article: Rickard, J (20 July 2017), USS Waters (DD-115/ APD-8) , http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/weapons_USS_Waters_DD115_APD8.html

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