Destroyer escort

Destroyer escort

A Destroyer Escort (DE) is the classification for a small, relatively slow warship (when compared to first-rate naval fleet vessels) designed to be used to escort convoys of merchant marine ships, primarily of the United States Merchant Marine in World War II. It is employed primarily for anti-submarine warfare, but also provides some protection against aircraft and smaller attack vessels employed in this application. The US built roughly 457 destroyer escorts spread out over 8 classes. The Royal Navy equivalent of the destroyer escort was known as a frigate.


The Lend-lease Act was passed into law in the USA in March 1941 enabling the United Kingdom to procure merchant ships, warships, munitions and other war materiel from the USA, in order to help with the war effort. This enabled the UK to commission the USA to design, build and supply an escort vessel that was suitable for anti-submarine warfare in deep open ocean situations, which they did in June 1941. Captain E.L. Cochrane of the American Bureau of Shipping came up with a design which was known as the British Destroyer Escort (BDE). The BDE designation was retained by the first six Destroyer Escorts transferred to the United Kingdom (BDE 1, 2, 3, 4, 12 and 46); of the initial order of 50 these were the only ones the Royal Navy received, the rest being reclassified as Destroyer Escort (DE) on January 25, 1943 and taken over by the United States Navy.

When the United States entered the war, and found they also required an Anti-Submarine warfare ship and that the Destroyer Escort fitted their needs perfectly, a system of rationing was put in place whereby out of every five Destroyer Escorts completed four would be allocated to the U.S. Navy and one to the Royal Navy.

General Description

Full size destroyers must be able to keep up with and exceed the speed of fast capital ships, typically needing better than 25-35 knot speeds (dependent upon the era and navy) and carrying torpedoes and a relatively smaller caliber of cannon to use against enemy ships, as well as anti-submarine detection equipment and weapons.

However, a destroyer escort need only be able to maneuver relative to a slow convoy (which in World War II would travel at 10 to 12 knots), defend itself against aircraft, and detect, chase down, and attack a submerged (3 to 6 knot speed) or surfaced (22 knot speed) submarine. These lower requirements greatly reduce the size, cost, and crew required for the destroyer escort. While fleet destroyers were still more effective for anti-submarine warfare, the destroyer escort outweighed this by being able to be built considerably faster and more economically. Destroyer escorts were also considerably more seaworthy than Corvettes.

Destroyer escorts were also useful for coastal anti-submarine and radar picket ship duty.

Some 95 Destroyer escorts were converted to APDs (High Speed Transports). This involved adding an extra deck which allowed space for about 10 officers and 150 men. The modern Littoral Combat Ship also adds transport and boat launching capabilities to a ship smaller than a destroyer. Two large davits were also installed, one on either side of the ship from which landing craft (LCVP) could be launched.

Battle off Samar

Destroyer escorts were not meant to fight against cruisers and battleships, but that is what happened in the Battle off Samar. While Admiral Halsey's main force of US carriers and battleships was pursuing the Japanese decoy carrier force, that left the landing ships and troops guarded by escort carriers and destroyer escorts. While the escort carriers launched their planes, destroyer escort ship Samuel B. Roberts of task group Taffy 3 joined other out-gunned destroyers in a counter-attack against Admiral Kurita's powerful force of Japanese cruisers and battleships.

With no armor, only two 5-inch guns and 3 Mark-15 torpedoes capable of punching a hole in enemy hulls, her crew lacked the weapons and training in tactics to compete with the much larger heavy cruiser Chokai. The Roberts dodged shellfire to fire a salvo of 3 torpedoes which struck the cruiser. The battle continued for an hour, and the Roberts fired over 600 5-inch shells, and hit the upper works with 40 mm Bofors and 20 mm anti-aircraft guns at close range. Chikuma's bridge was set afire and the number 3 gun turret was disabled. Chikuma scored two direct hits on the Roberts, which soon sank with 89 of her crew. After the battle the Roberts became known as "the destroyer escort that fought like a battleship". The Roberts was an instrumental part of a small task force of light ships that forced a much larger armoured battle force to turn away from American landing forces in Leyte Gulf, though at a high cost.

Postwar U.S. Ship Reclassification

After World War II United States Navy destroyer escorts were referred to as ocean escorts, but retained the hull classification symbol DE. However other navies, most notably those of NATO countries and the USSR, followed different naming conventions for this type of ship which resulted in some confusion. In order to remedy this problem the 1975 ship reclassification reclassified ocean escorts (and by extension, destroyer escorts) as Frigates (FF). This brought the USN's nomenclature more in line with NATO, and made it easier to compare ship types with the Soviet Union (see Cruiser gap). As of 2006 there are no plans for future frigates for the US Navy. The DDG Zumwalt and the Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) are the main ship types planned in this area. One major problem with ship classification is whether to base it on a ship's role (such as escort or air defense), or on its size (such as the amount of tons). One example of this ambiguity are the Ticonderoga-class air defense ships, which are classified as cruiser even though they use the same hull as the Spruance class destroyer.

US Navy Destroyer escort class overview

Class Name         Lead Ship           Commissioned   Ships Built
Evarts class USS Evarts (DE-5) 15 April 1943   72
Buckley class USS Buckley (DE-51) 30 April 1943 102
Cannon class USS Cannon (DE-99) 26 September 1943   72
Edsall class USS Edsall (DE-129) 10 April 1943   85
Rudderow class USS Rudderow (DE-224) 15 May 1944   22
John C. Butler class   USS John C. Butler (DE-339)   31 March 1944   87
Dealey class USS Dealey (DE-1006) 3 June 1954   13
Claud Jones class USS Claud Jones (DE-1033) 10 February 1959     4

Captain class frigates of the Royal Navy

Under the Lend-Lease agreement, the Royal Navy received 32 destroyer escorts of the Evarts class and 46 of the Buckley class. The Royal Navy initially used the names of captains of the Napoleonic Wars for the ships; hence the Admiralty calling these ships the Captain class frigates.

The main design difference between the Royal Navy frigates and the US Navy destroyer escorts was that the British Buckley class had the forward torpedo tubes removed (the Evarts class was not designed to carry torpedo tubes As well, British frigates had the ice cream makers, the iced water fountains, the dishwashers, and laundries (in some ships) and the replacing of the primitive American two seat "thunder trough" toilets (which did not offer even so much as a simple canvas screen to spare blushes) with an enclosed water closet.

Free French

Six Cannon class Destroyer Escorts were built for the Free French Navy. Although initially transferred under the Lend-lease Act these ships were permanently transferred under the Mutual Defense Assistance Program.

List of Free French Destroyer escorts

Mutual Defense Assistance Program - Post WWII

Under the Mutual Defense Assistance Program (MDAP) the Destroyer Escorts leased to the Free French were permanently transferred to the French Navy. In addition the following navies also acquired Destroyer Escorts:

French Navy

DE-1007, DE-1008, DE-1009, DE-1010, DE-1011, DE-1012, DE-1013, DE-1016, DE-1017, DE-1018, DE1019

Italian Navy

DE-1020, DE-1031

Portuguese Navy

DE-1032, DE-1039, DE-1042, DE-1046

Netherlands Navy

DE 195 Burrows, DE 196 Rinehart, DE 182 Gustafson, DE 188 O'Neill, DE 192 Eisner, DE 187 Stern

See also

External links


  • The most authoritative account of a destroyer escort class and destroyer escorts in general is Bruce H. Franklin's Buckley-Class Destroyer Escorts. Naval Institute Press, 1999 ISBN 1557502803
  • For an excellent book on the subject of a particular example of this type of ship in World War II, the USS Abercrombie (DE-343) see Little Ship, Big War: The Saga of DE-343 by Edward Peary Stafford. Naval Institute Press, 2000 ISBN 1-55750-890-9
  • For an excellent book on the subject of the Captains class frigate variant of the Destroyer Escort in World War II, see The Captain Class Frigates in the Second World War by Donald Collingwood. published by Leo Cooper (1998), ISBN 085052 615 9.

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