USS Tucker off the Norfolk Navy Yard, Portsmouth, Virginia, 2 March 1937
|Builder:||Norfolk Navy Yard|
|Laid down:||15 August 1934|
|Launched:||26 February 1936|
|Commissioned:||23 July 1936|
|Struck:||2 December 1944|
|Fate:||Struck mine off Espiritu Santo, New Hebrides, 4 August 1942|
|Class and type:||Mahan-class destroyer|
|Length:||341 ft 3 in (104.0 m)|
|Beam:||35 ft 6 in (10.8 m)|
|Draft:||10 ft 7 in (3.2 m)|
|Propulsion:||2 General Electric steam turbines|
|Speed:||37 knots (69 km/h; 43 mph)|
|Range:||6,940 nmi (12,850 km; 7,990 mi) at 12 knots (22 km/h; 14 mph)|
|Complement:||158 officers and enlisted men|
|Sensors and |
|1 × gun director above bridge|
USS Tucker (DD-374) was a Mahan-class destroyer in the United States Navy, commissioned in 1936. She was named for Samuel Tucker, an officer in the Continental Navy and the United States Navy. Tucker's main battery consisted of five dual-purpose 38 caliber 5-inch (127 mm) guns, equipped with the MK 33 gun fire-control system. Her top speed was 37 knots (43 mph; 69 km/h).
First assigned to the United States Battle Fleet in San Diego, California, Tucker operated along the West Coast and in the Hawaiian Islands. After participating in naval exercises in the Caribbean Sea, she returned to duty in Hawaii. She then went on a goodwill tour to New Zealand, returning to Hawaii and docking at Pearl Harbor. When the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor on 7 December 1941, Tucker was undergoing an overhaul. The ship sustained no damage. Soon afterward, she began escorting convoys between the West Coast and Hawaii. Tucker was then tasked with escort duty to American Samoa; New Caledonia; Espiritu Santo, New Hebrides; and Suva, Fiji.
Tucker steamed out of Suva on 1 August 1942, escorting the cargo ship SS Nira Luckenbach to Espiritu Santo. On 4 August, as she was leading the cargo ship into the harbor at Espiritu Santo, Tucker unknowingly entered a minefield laid by US Navy minelayers. She struck at least one mine and was torn almost in two at her No. 1 stack, killing all three sailors in the forward fire room. The rest of the crew survived but the destroyer sank. An investigation revealed that Tucker had not been informed of the minefield.
Tucker displaced 1,500 long tons (1,524 t) at standard load and 1,725 long tons (1,753 t) at deep load. The ship's overall length was 341 feet 3 inches (104.0 m), her beam was 35 feet 6 inches (10.8 m), and her draft was 10 feet 7 inches (3.2 m). Tucker carried a maximum 523 long tons (531 t) of fuel oil, with a range of 6,940 nautical miles (12,850 km; 7,990 mi) at 12 knots (22 km/h; 14 mph). Her complement was 158 officers and enlisted men.
She had a tripod foremast and a pole mainmast. To improve the antiaircraft field of fire, her tripod foremast was constructed without nautical rigging. The destroyer was fitted with emergency diesel generators, replacing the storage batteries of earlier destroyers. Gun crew shelters were also built fore and aft for the superimposed guns. A third set of quadruple torpedo tubes was added, with one mounted on the centerline and two in the side positions.
Tucker was fitted with four water-tube boilers built by Babcock & Wilcox or Foster Wheeler; they generated the steam propelling two General Electric geared steam turbines, developing 46,000 shaft horsepower (34,000 kW) for a maximum speed of 37 knots (69 km/h; 43 mph). The ship's design incorporated a new generation of land-based propulsion machinery. The boiler was capable of reaching 650–700 °F (340–370 °C), powering the high-pressure turbines with double reduction gears which enabled the turbines to run faster and more efficiently than in previous destroyer designs.
Tucker's main battery consisted of five dual-purpose 38 caliber 5-inch (127 mm) guns, equipped with the MK 33 gun fire-control system. Each gun was configured for surface and aerial targets. The ship's antiaircraft battery had four water-cooled .50 caliber machine guns (12.7 mm). The ship was fitted with three quadruple torpedo-tube mounts for twelve 21-inch (533 mm) torpedoes, guided by the Mark 27 torpedo fire-control system. The depth charge roll-off racks were rigged on the stern of the ship. In early 1942, the Navy began to refit the Mahan-class destroyers with new antiaircraft armament, although most of the class was not refitted until sometime in 1944.
Tucker was one of eighteen Mahan-class destroyers and was built at the Norfolk Navy Yard in Portsmouth, Virginia. She was the second vessel to be named for Samuel Tucker, who had been an officer in the Continental Navy and the United States Navy. Tucker's keel was laid down on 15 August 1934. She was launched on 26 February 1936 and christened by Mrs. Leonard Thorner, a Tucker third cousin. The ship was commissioned in the United States Navy on 23 July 1936, with Lieutenant Commander George T. Howard in command.
After her shakedown cruise, Tucker joined destroyer forces attached to the United States Battle Fleet in San Diego, California. She operated with them along the West Coast and in the Hawaiian islands as part of Destroyer Squadron 3 of the Destroyer Division. In February 1939, she took part in Fleet Problem XX, a naval exercise held in the Caribbean Sea and Atlantic Ocean and observed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt. As tensions with Japan increased, the fleet was ordered to return to Hawaiian waters.
In June 1940, Tucker steamed from Hawaii to a location east of Wake Island for fleet exercises. In United States Navy Destroyers of World War II, John Reilly, Jr. described the uncommon method used to power the vessel:
... Tucker stretched her fuel supply by rigging Sails. Her homemade foresail and mainsail moved Tucker at an estimated 3.4 knots, letting her maintain steerageway as she loitered on station several days.
Tucker continued operating between Hawaii and the West Coast into February 1941. She then set course for New Zealand on a goodwill tour, arriving in Auckland on 17 March. Returning to Pearl Harbor, she took part in routine exercises at sea before returning to her home port of San Diego on 19 September. After a short stay, Tucker steamed to Hawaii in November as part of Task Force 19, operating again in the Hawaiian Islands. Shortly afterwards, she put into Pearl Harbor for an overhaul by a destroyer tender.
When the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor on 7 December 1941, Tucker was one of five destroyers moored at berth X–9, East Loch, alongside the destroyer tender Whitney. Even before Tucker's general quarters alarm could be sounded, one of her on-deck sailors began firing a 50-caliber machine gun at the first wave of Japanese aircraft. When the second wave attacked, every ship that could opened fire. Tucker's gunners scored hits on at least two aircraft: one crashed in a cane field, another in flames disappeared over a mountaintop. Because Tucker was at Pearl Harbor for overhaul, much of her machinery had been torn down for repairs; despite the crew's efforts, they were unable to get the ship underway until that evening.
After her overhaul, Tucker patrolled off Pearl Harbor and spent several months escorting convoys between Hawaii and the West Coast. With new orders, she steamed to the South Pacific for convoy duty. Tucker then escorted the auxiliary ship Wright to Tutuila, American Samoa, as part of the drive to fortify outposts. She then escorted her charge to Suva, Fiji, and proceeded to Noumea, New Caledonia. Steaming on for Australia, she arrived at Sydney on 27 April. After taking on fuel, she visited Melbourne, Perth, and Fremantle before steaming back to Sydney. Tucker and Wright returned to Suva, arriving on 3 June 1942. For the remainder of June and into the first week of July, Tucker operated out of Suva before relieving the cruiser Boise of convoy escort duties on 10 July. On 30 July, the ship arrived at Auckland and the following day started back for Suva.
On 1 August 1942, Tucker left Suva, escorting the cargo ship SS Nira Luckenbach to Espiritu Santo, New Hebrides. On 4 August, Tucker was leading the cargo ship into the harbor at Espiritu Santo. As she headed into the western entrance, she struck at least one mine. The explosion tore her hull nearly in two at the No. 1 stack, killing all three crew members on watch in the forward fire room. The rest of the ship's company survived.
Nira Luckenbach and other vessels rescued sailors from their sinking ship. Tucker's stern sank the following morning; a diving party scuttled and sank her bow. The ship had steamed into the Segond Channel unaware that the minelayers Gamble, Breese, and Tracy had laid mines at its western entrance. An investigation revealed that she had not been informed of the minefield. She was stricken from the Naval Vessel Register on 2 December 1944. Tucker's loss was a setback to the Pacific Fleet, which was trying to assemble every available ship for the Battle of Guadalcanal.
Three days after Tucker sank, the seagoing tugboat Navajo arrived on site with divers, salvaging her guns, turbines, anchors and chains. During the remainder of the war, the Navy used the wreckage site for diver training; they did not undertake further salvaging. Settling in just 60 feet of water, the ship was easily accessible to private salvors, who harvested anything of value, ransacking and further scattering Tucker's remains. Sport divers also had a destructive effect on the site, which by 1997 resembled an "underwater junkyard". An underwater photojournalist dove the Tucker wreckage site several times; in 2013 he eulogized Tucker and other sunken ships:
To see a ship with a distinguished record as the Tucker in such a poor state gave me pause for thought. I pondered that wrecks, like the Tucker, will gradually disappear and to be saddened by this inevitable fact would be pointless. What is important is that the memory of these ships be kept alive by telling their stories.— Mike Gerken, "The USS Tucker: A Prestigious Past with an Inglorious End", Wreck Diving Magazine
- Friedman 1982, p. 465.
- Friedman 1982, p. 88.
- Hodges & Friedman 1979, p. 111.
- Friedman 1982, p. 86.
- Hodges & Friedman 1979, p. 145.
- Conway's 1980, pp. 125–126.
- Parkin 1996, p. 69.
- Reilly 1983, p. 30.
- Roscoe 1953, pp. 47–48.
- Parkin 1996, p. 68.
- Roscoe 1953, p. 165.
- Rohwer 2005, p. 184.
- Stone 1997, pp. 78–79.
- Gerken 2013.
- Conway's Maritime Editors (1980). Conway's All the World's Fighting Ships 1922–1946. Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press. ISBN 0-87021-913-8.
- Friedman, Norman (1982). U.S. Destroyers. Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press. ISBN 0-87021-733-X.
- Gerken, Mike (2013). "USS Tucker: A Prestigious Past with an Inglorious End". Wreck Diving Magazine. No. 31. Retrieved 27 October 2019 – via EvolutionUnderwater.com.
- Hodges, Peter; Friedman, Norman (1979). Destroyer Weapons of World War 2. Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press. ISBN 0-87021-929-4.
- NHHC. "Tucker". Naval History and Heritage Command. Retrieved 26 April 2016.
- Parkin, Robert Sinclair (1996). Blood on the Sea: American Destroyers Lost in World War II. New York, NY: Sarpedon. ISBN 1 885119 17 8.
- Reilly, John (1983). United States Navy Destroyers of World War II. Poole, Dorset, England: Blandford Press. ISBN 0-7137-1026-8.
- Roscoe, Theodore (1953). U.S. Destroyer Operations in World War II. Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press. ISBN 0-87021-726-7.
- Rohwer, Jürgen (2005). Chronology of the War at Sea 1939–1945. Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press. ISBN 1-59114-119-2.
- Stone, Peter (1997). The Lady and the President: The Life and Loss of the S. S. President Coolidge. Yarram, Australia: Oceans Enterprises. ISBN 9780958665728.
- This article incorporates text from the public domain Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships. The entry can be found here.