The 563 destroyer escorts built during World War II were divided into six classes. Four of the six classes mounted 3"/50 guns, while the last two classes mounted the larger 5"/38 gun. The various destroyer escort classes also mounted different types of propulsion, depending primarily upon what type of engine was available due to the high demands of new construction.
The EVARTS class was the first type of destroyer escort to enter service in early 1943. These ships, commonly referred to as the short hull destroyer escort, were 290 feet long, sixteen feet shorter than the other five destroyer escort classes. They mounted three 3"/50 guns, a variety of anti-aircraft guns and depth charges and a hedgehog 1 for anti-submarine combat. The EVARTS class was the only destroyer escort type that did not carry torpedo tubes as built. In all, ninety-seven EVARTS class destroyer escorts were built in American shipyards. Thirty-two of these were given to the British Navy, while the rest remained in US service. Although the EVARTS class proved the concept of the mass-produced destroyer escort, their relatively short range and poor sea keeping characteristics made them an unpopular design. 2
Many of the shortcomings of the EVARTS class were rectified with the second destroyer escort type, the BUCKLEY class. The BUCKLEY class featured a longer hull that improved sea keeping and increased range. These ships carried a similar armament to the EVARTS class, but they were the first destroyer escort type to carry torpedoes onboard. The BUCKLEY class carried a turbo-electric propulsion plant, which gave it more speed and better range than the EVARTS class. Numerically, the BUCKLEY class was by far the largest destroyer escort class. By the war's end, 154 BUCKLEY class destroyer escorts had been produced. Forty-three of these ships went to the British Navy. In addition, forty-three of these ships were converted by the United States Navy into high speed transports. 3
The CANNON class was the third destroyer escort type to enter service. This was one of the smallest classes produced during the war with seventy-two CANNON class ships completed by 1945, including the USS SLATER. The CANNON class was very similar in design to the BUCKLEY class, the primary difference being a diesel-electric power plant instead of the BUCKLEY class's turbo-electric design. The fuel efficient diesel electric plant greatly improved the range of the CANNON class, but at the cost of speed. Eight CANNON class destroyer escorts were given to the Brazilian Navy during World War II, while six more were given to the Free French Navy. 4
Except for the propulsion, the EDSALL class was nearly identical to the CANNON class in every respect. This fourth class of destroyer escort mounted a direct drive diesel configuration that proved to be extremely reliable. Eighty-five EDSALL class destroyer escorts were built during World War II. Thirty-seven of the EDSALL class ships have the distinction of being the only destroyer escort class manned by United States Coast Guard personnel during the war. Many of the EDSALL class ships were converted after World War II into long range radar picket ships. These ships, known as DERs, were some of the last destroyer escorts to be taken out of service in the late 1960s. 5
The fifth destroyer escort class, the RUDDEROW, represented a major departure from the original design. This was the first class to mount 5"/38 guns instead of the usual 3"/50. The RUDDEROW class also featured a completely redesigned, much lower superstructure than that found on the earlier destroyer escorts. Seventy-two RUDDEROW class destroyer escorts were built between 1944 and 1945. Most of these ships were converted into high speed transports known as APDs. Only twenty-one of the RUDDEROW class ended the war in their original configuration. 6
The final destroyer escort class produced during the war was named for the USS JOHN C. BUTLER. These ships were outwardly identical to the RUDDEROW class, but they mounted the steam driven turbine propulsion plant that was common to most ships in the United States Navy at that time. The BUTLER class represented the peak of destroyer escort design. They combined many of the characteristics of the earlier classes with the weapons and propulsion plants that the other classes lacked due to limited American industrial capacity when the destroyer escort project began. Eighty-three JOHN C. BUTLER class destroyer escorts were built during the war, and many of them remained active in the Navy long after the war ended. 7
Continue on to the next section by clicking here.
|1 The hedgehog was an ahead-thrown depth charge. It fired a pattern of twenty-four contact-fuzed warheads ahead of the destroyer escort, and was one of the most effective anti-submarine weapons available during World War II.
2 Davis, Martin ed., Destroyer Escorts of World War II, Deland, Florida: DESA, 1987, 9.
3 Adcock, Al, Destroyer Escorts in Action, Carrolton, Texas: Squadron/Signal Publications, 1997, 12-17.
4 Ibid., Friedman, Norman, US Naval Weapons, London: Conway Maritime Press, 1983, 18-24.
5 Davis, Destroyer Escorts, 29-30.
6 Adcock, Destroyer Escorts in Action, 32-5.
7 Ibid., Friedman, Norman, US Naval Weapons, London: Conway Maritime Press, 1983, 38.