USS Truxtun Association

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USS Truxtun DD-229

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General Characteristics

Class and type: Clemson-class destroyer
Displacement: 1,215 tons
Length: 314 ft 4 1⁄2 in (95.82 m)
Beam: 30 ft 11 1⁄2 in (9.436 m)
Draft: 9 ft 9 3⁄4 in (2.991 m)
Propulsion: 26,500 shp (20 MW); geared turbines, 2 screws
Speed: 35 kn (65 km/h)
Complement: 122 officers and enlisted
Armament:
  • 4 x 4 in (100 mm) guns
  • 1 x 3 in (76 mm) gun
  • 12 x 21" (533 mm) tt.

History

USS Truxtun (DD-229) was a Clemson-class destroyer in the United States Navy during World War II. She was the third ship named for Thomas Truxtun.

Truxtun was laid down on 3 December 1919 and launched on 28 September 1920 from William Cramp & Sons, sponsored by Miss Isabelle Truxtun Brumby, and commissioned at the Philadelphia Navy Yard on 16 February 1921, Lieutenant Commander Melville S. Brown in command.

Upon commissioning, Truxtun completed shakedown and began duty along the east coast with the Atlantic Fleet as a unit of Division 39, Destroyer Squadron 3. She operated with that unit along the Atlantic seaboard until the fall when she was reassigned to Division 43, Squadron 15. During the winter of 1921 and 1922, the destroyer joined the fleet in maneuvers and exercises near Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Asiatic Fleet: In March 1922, Division 43 returned north to Newport, Rhode Island, to prepare for service in the Asiatic Fleet. On 22 June 1922, Truxtun departed Newport and proceeded, via the Mediterranean, the Suez Canal, and the Indian Ocean, to the Far East which she reached in mid-August. By early September, she and several sister destroyers of Division 43 joined the main elements of the Asiatic Fleet off Chefoo on the northern coast of China. Late in October, the fleet headed south to its winter base at Manila in the Philippines, from whence it conducted exercises until the following spring.

Truxtun served with the Asiatic Fleet for the next 10 years. During that decade, she alternated summer cruises in Chinese waters with winter maneuvers in the Philippines. This routine was punctuated by special unusual assignments. For instance, in June 1924, she and the other five destroyers of Division 43 helped to form a chain of picket ships across the Yellow Sea for the Army's global flight. More often, however, internecine warfare in China brought Truxtun to the coast of that troubled nation to protect American lives and property. She spent a total of eight out of the 13 months between September 1926 and October 1927 patrolling the Yangtze River while competing factions in China fought one another - and occasionally otherwise neutral third parties. The destroyer returned to the Yangtze River Patrol twice more - from 1 March to 14 April 1930 and from January through March 1932 - when internal political convulsions in China threatened foreign lives and property.

On 18 April 1932, Truxtun departed Manila and the Asiatic Fleet to join the destroyers attached to the Battle Force. After stops at Guam, Midway, and Hawaii, she reached Mare Island Navy Yard on 13 May. For the next seven years, she patrolled the Pacific, as far north as Alaska and as far south as the Panama Canal, participating in maneuvers with capital ships of the Battle Force. Only once, in 1934, did she leave the Pacific. On 9 April, she cleared San Diego and transited the Panama Canal. After calling at Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Truxtun steamed north to New York City, arriving on 31 May. Following that visit, she patrolled the eastern seaboard. On 15 September, the destroyer stood out of Hampton Roads, re-transited the canal, and returned to San Diego on 9 November to resume operations with the Battle Force.

World War II - Transfer to Atlantic Squadron: On 27 April 1939, Truxtun steamed out of San Diego and headed for the canal once more. She reached Norfolk, Virginia on 15 May and joined Destroyer Division 27, Atlantic Squadron. The destroyer patrolled the east coast of the United States while war clouds gathered in Europe. Soon after the outbreak of war in September, Truxtun began enforcing the provisions of President Franklin D. Roosevelt's proclamation of American neutrality by conducting neutrality patrols and escort duty off the Atlantic coast, in the Gulf of Mexico, and in the Caribbean. In late May and early June 1940, the warship made a voyage to Casablanca in French North Africa and then resumed neutrality patrols off Florida and in the Caribbean.

Following repairs at Norfolk in December 1940 and January 1941, Truxtun cleared Hampton Roads on 6 February. The next day, she reached Newport, Rhode Island, where she joined Destroyer Division 63, Squadron 31. Between late February and mid-March, she made two voyages to Halifax, Nova Scotia, returning to the United States at the Washington Navy Yard on both occasions. On 15 March, the destroyer returned to Newport and resumed patrols and exercises.

NavSource Naval History Photographs.

A Sad Ending: (From DEAD RECKONING: The Pollux-Truxtun Disaster) On February 15, 1942, Truxtun departed Boston for Argentia, Newfoundland, where a large US air-naval base existed. As it steamed north, a violent winter storm developed and pelted the destroyer with gale-force winds, giant waves, and blowing sleet. Visibility was zero and strong ocean currents pushed the Truxtun dangerously close to Newfoundland's rocky coastline. At 4:10 in the morning of February 18, the destroyer went aground in Chambers Cove, on the island's south coast. Jagged rocks pierced the destroyer's hull and powerful waves began to break it apart.

The 156 men onboard spent the coming hours in a desperate struggle for survival. Many crew members were young - between the ages of 18 and 25 - and had only joined the Navy during the last two months, following Japan's surprise attack against Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. Also present were veteran sailors, such as the ship's captain, Lieutenant Commander Ralph Hickox. Sadly, most men onboard the Truxtun died that day in Chambers Cove while trying to cross the raging waters that separated them from land. Dozens of sailors jumped into the water only to be swept out to sea or dashed against the jagged rocks and tall cliffs lining the coastline. Others made it to shore, but then froze to death in the howling wind and blowing sleet. In the end, 110 men died and 46 survived.

Those who lived did so because of their own resilience and bravery, and also because of the selfless heroism displayed by residents from the nearby mining town of St. Lawrence. These men and women spent hours pulling American sailors from the ocean, transporting them to safety, and nursing them back to health until the Navy picked them up the following day.

A second vessel, the USS Pollux, was traveling in convoy with the Truxtun when it also went aground on February 18. Of the 233 men onboard that vessel, 93 died. Together, the Pollux-Truxtun disaster is considered one of the worst in United States naval history.

A documentary video of the Pollux-Truxtun Disaster may be viewed HERE.
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A memorial monument in St. Lawrence, Newfoundland, Canada on the bluff above where the Pollux and Truxtun ran aground and sank.