The Gearing class Destroyer
The ultimate World War II destroyer and the backbone of the post-war navy was the 98 vessels of the Gearing class. Operations as anti-submarine (ASW), Anti-aircraft (AA), and fire support platforms throughout the world , and even to the present day, revealed the versatility and worthiness of this class ship.

The Beginning
The first ship laid down was USS William C. Lawe DD763 in March 1944, with this ship also amazingly the last retired in October 1983. The 98 ships of the Gearing class started joining the wartime fleet with the first that was commissioned, USS Frank Knox DD742, in December 1944. Between 1944 and 1949, 98 Gearing class Destroyers joined the Navy as a minor improvement of the previous Sumner class, which were built from 1943 until 1945. The main difference was that the Gearings were 14 feet longer amidships, allowing for increased fuel storage for greater range. With their large size and greater steaming radius, these ships were planned for the Pacific War Offensive and the proposed invasion of the Japanese home islands.

As designed, the Gearings' armament and speed was similar to their predecessors in the Sumner class. Three twin 5"/38cal Mark 38 dual purpose (DP) mounts constituted the main battery and were guided by a Mark 37 Gun Fire Control System. This fire control system provided effective long-range anti-aircraft (AA) or anti-surface fire and computes all targetting information for the twin 5"38 mounts. It also transmits and receives data from both CIC and the IC compartments within the ship. Twelve 40 mm guns and eleven 20 mm guns were also retained. The initial design retained the Sumners' heavy torpedo armament of ten 21" (533mm) tubes in two quintuple mounts, firing the Mark 15 torpedo. As the threat from kamikaze aircraft mounted in 1945, and with few remaining Japanese warships to use torpedoes on, most of the class had the after quintuple 21" torpedo tube mount replaced by an additional 40 mm quadruple mount (prior to completion on later ships) for 16 total 40mm guns. 26 ships (DD-742-745, 805-808, 829-835, and 873-883) were ordered without torpedo tubes to allow for radar picket equipment; these were redesignated as DDRs in 1948.

Late 40s and 1950s
The Gearings' increased size made them much more suitable for upgrades than the Sumners, with the radar picket destroyer (DDR) and escort destroyer (DDE) conversions. Following World War II most of the class had their AA and ASW armament upgraded to meet potential new threats. The 40 mm and 20 mm guns were replaced by two to six 3"/50 caliber guns. One depth charge rack was removed and two Hedgehog mounts were added with K-guns launchers retained. Nine additional (for a total of 35) ships were converted to radar picket destroyers (DDR) in the early 1950s; these typically received only one 3"/50cal twin mount to save weight for radar equipment, as did the wartime radar pickets. Nine ships were converted to escort destroyers (DDE), emphasizing ASW. USS Carpenter (DD-825) was the most thorough DDE conversion, with four 3"/70cal guns in twin enclosed mounts, two Weapon Alpha launchers, four new 21" torpedo tubes for the Mark 37 ASW torpedo, and one depth charge rack.

1960s Fleet Rehabilitation and Modernization Program (FRAM)
The FRAM program of the US Navy was in response to the build up of the Russian military threat of the cold war. Submarine detection and destruction was now the priority of the late 50s and early 60s. The Navy did a study that revealed that the existent Gearing and Sumner class destroyers could be modernized to meet these challenges at considerable costs savings over building new ships. Thus the FRAM I and II came into being with each ship in these classes being granted its own 18 month yard time. Ships began entering the shipyard by the early 1960s.

The vast majority of the class received FRAM I overhauls. The ships were completely stripped to the main deck and all interior machinery was overhauled or replaced. Electronics and state of the art weapon systems were to be installed. More specifically, all secondary WWII weaponry and the No. 2 twin 5in gun were removed on most vessels of the class. A Mk32 surface vessel torpedo tube took the place of the No. 2 forward mount while other ships had these units installed between the smokestacks. In addition, FRAM 1 ships received ASROC (Anti Submarine Rocket Launcher) and a respective control station between her stacks. ASROC fired a rocket at a submarines position that would parachute out a Mk44/MK46 homing torpedo or nuclear depth charge in to the water. The caps on the smoke stacks were modified on all FRAM destroyers to protect against nuclear overpressure.

A hangar deck was created aft to launch and stow a DASH (Drone Anti-Submarine Helicopter). The Gyrodyne QH-50C DASH was an unmanned anti-submarine helicopter, controlled remotely from the ship that would deploy Mk.44 or MK46 homing ASW torpedoes. During this era the ASROC system had an effective range of only 5 nautical miles (9 km), but the DASH drone allowed the ship to deploy ASW attack to sonar contacts as far as 22 nautical miles (41 km) away. Adjacent to the hangar itself was the ASROC stowage compartment.

The new ultra low frequency SQS-23 sonar (with a 40,000 yard range) was installed forward to complement the ASW weaponry as well as an ECM array installed aft of the ASROC. The secondary mast carried Electronic Counter Measures (ECM) and Electronic Support Measures (ESM) antenna/domes. The domes were part of the ESM AN/WLR1 system of surveillance. This system allowed for the accessing of enemy ship and aircraft radio, radar, and navigation transmissions. This information would reveal the location, type of enemy weapon systems, and potential threat. On the ends of the mast, were ECM equipment that tried to confuse the enemy by interfering with the enemies communication systems.

The superstructure and interior compartments were totally rebuilt to accommodate and protect the increased amount of personnel needed to maintain and operate the new equipment. The FRAM MK II program was designed primarily for the Sumner class destroyers, but was used to upgrade some of the Gearing class . This upgrade program included life-extension refurbishment, a new radar system, Mk. 32 torpedo tubes, DASH ASW drone, and a variable depth sonar

The FRAM project was supposed to add 8-10 years on to the operating lives of these ships. However the actual service of these ships lasted some 20 years in some cases due to the use as a outstanding gunfire support platform during the Vietnam War and ASROC continuing to provide a standoff ASW capability. They were finally replaced in the fleet by the new Spruance class Destroyer but paved the way for a modern US Navy.

The Ships (Ships without hull numbers were never completed but were designated)

    USS Gearing DD710

    USS Kenneth D. Bailey DD711

    USS Wiltsie DD716

    USS Epperson DD719

    USS Frank Knox DD742

    USS Lloyd Thomas DD764

    USS Seymour D. Owens

    USS Rowan DD782

    USS Henderson DD785

    USS Hollister DD788

    USS Seaman

    USS Benner DD807

    USS New DD818

    USS Johnston DD821

    USS Basilone DD824

    USS Robert A. Owen DD827

    USS Everett F. Larson DD830

    USS Herbert J. Thomas DD833

    USS George K. MacKenzie DD836

    USS Power DD839

    USS Fiske DD842

    USS Bausell DD845

    USS Witek DD848

    USS Rupertus DD851

    USS Fred T. Berry DD858

    USS Harwood DD861

    USS Harold J. Ellison DD864

    USS Stribling DD867

    USS Fechteler DD870

    USS Hawkins DD873

    USS Rogers DD876

    USS Leary DD879

    USS Furse DD882

    USS John R. Craig DD885

    USS Stickell DD888

    USS Eugene A Greene DD711

    USS William R. Rush DD714

    USS Theodore E. Chandler DD717

    USS Castle

    USS Southerland DD743

    USS Keppler DD765

    USS Hoel

    USS Gurke DD783

    USS Richard B. Anderson DD786

    USS Eversole DD789

    USS Chevalier DD805

    USS Dennis J. Buckley DD808

    USS Holder DD819

    USS Robert H. McCard DD822

    USS Carpenter DD825

    USS Timmerman DD828

    USS Goodrich DD831

    USS Turner DD834

    USS Sarsfield DD837

    USS Glennon DD840

    USS Warrington DD843

    USS Ozbourn DD846

    USS Richard E. Kraus DD849

    USS Leonard F. Mason DD852

    USS Norris DD859

    USS Vogelgesang DD862

    USS Charles R. Ware DD865

    USS Brownson DD868

    USS Damato DD871

    USS Duncan DD874

    USS Perkins DD877

    USS Dyess DD880

    USS Newman K. Perry DD883

    USS Orleck DD886

    USS O'Hare DD889

    USS Gyatt DD712

    USS William M. Wood DD715

    USS Hamner DD718

    USS Woodrow R. Thompson

    USS William C. Lawe DD763

    USS Lansdale

    USS Abner Read

    USS McKean DD784

    USS James E Kyes DD787

    USS Shelton DD790

    USS Higbee DD806

    USS Corry DD817

    USS Rich DD820

    USS Samuel B. Roberts DD823

    USS Agerholm DD826

    USS Myles C. Fox DD829

    USS Hanson DD832

    USS Charles P. Cecil DD835

    USS Ernest G. Small DD838

    USS Noa DD841

    USS Perry DD844

    USS Robert L. Wilson DD847

    USS Joseph P. Kennedy Jr. DD850

    USS Charles H. Roan DD853

    USS McCaffery DD860

    USS Steinaker DD863

    USS Cone DD866

    USS Arnold Isbell DD869

    USS Forrest Royal DD872

    USS Henry W. Tucker DD875

    USS Vesole DD878

    USS Bordelon DD881

    USS Floyd B. Parks DD884

    USS Brinkley Bass DD887

    USS Meredith DD890

Gearing class Features

This video from 1970 shows Destroyer life aboard a Gearing class Destroyer. Great footage and scenes that are sure to rekindle memories!