An illustrated history of the long Cold War careers of the US Navy's last gun destroyers, from the modernised World War II-era Fletcher-class to the Forrest Sherman-class. The finest American destroyers of World War II had surprisingly long careers into the Cold War and the missile age. The 175-strong Fletcher-class was the largest class of US Navy destroyers ever built, and most received some modernisation after World War II.
A handful were converted into ASW (Anti-Submarine Warfare) escorts and one was even converted into the US Navy's first guided missile destroyer. Many Sumner-class destroyers were also kept in service, with the last decommissioned in 1973. The Gearing class was the classic US Navy wartime destroyer to have a second Cold War career, some being modified into picket ships and others into ASW escorts.
Ninety-five were extensively modernised under the Fleet Modernization and Rehabilitation (FRAM) program which allowed them to serve until 1980. The majority of these ships then saw service with foreign navies. However the story of Cold War gun destroyers is not just one of World War II relics.
Commissioned in the 1950s, the 18 ships of the Forrest Sherman class were the US Navy's last all-gun destroyers, and were considered to be the pinnacle of US Navy gun-destroyer design. Later in their careers, most were modernised for ASW and anti-air warfare. The virtually unknown Norfolk class was originally built as a destroyer leader and maximized for ASW but only two were modernized and the other three retired early.
Many of these ships, such as USS Edson, Cassin Young, and Turner Joy, still survive as museum ships today. Using battle scene artwork, detailed illustrations and photos, this book explores the careers, modernisations, and roles of all these unsung Cold War stalwarts, the last gun destroyers of the US Navy.
Author(s): Mark Stille
First Publishment Date: 26 October 2023