USS Shaw: A Ship Too Tough to Die!

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By any account, the plucky destroyer whose explosive photo became the dramtic icon of the Pearl Harbor attack was blessed with more than nine lives


The first destroyer USS Shaw (DD-68) was named, as was her successor, to honor Capt. John Shaw, an early American Naval hero. Shaw was born in Ireland in 1773. He first established his name in American Naval history in the undeclared war with France in 1800. In eight months, as commanding officer of the Enterprise, Shaw captured six privateers and recaptured eleven American merchantmen. He died in 1823. It is somewhat symbolic that the second Shaw would, during WWII, be assigned to the task force grouped around the carrier USS Enterprise whose predecessor was captained, 142-years earlier, by John Shaw.

The first Shaw was commissioned in 1917 as a Sampson-class destroyer and saw active duty during WWI. She wasn't a true "flush-deck four-piper" destroyer of pre-WWII fame, but rather had the broken-deck arrangement of the "thousand tonners" and other early destroyers.

In October 1918, the Shaw, commanded at the time by Cmdr. W.A. Glassford, had her bow sheared off by the liner Aquitania. The liner sliced into the destroyer, whose steering gear had jammed, just forward of the bridge. Twelve bluejackets were killed.

Destroyers of WWI fought about 250 anti-submarine actions, though the vessels were by no means confined to those operations. When operating with fleets, they also scouted, screened, and laid smoke. It was American destroyers which screened the five coal-burning American dreadnoughts that crossed the Atlantic in December 1917 to reinforce the British Grand Fleet.

The first Shaw was struck from the Navy list on 25 March 1926 and transferred to the Coast Guard the same day. She was returned to the Navy by the Coast Guard and reinstated on the Navy list effective 30 June 1933. Her name was canceled on 1 November 1933, for assignment to a new destroyer, and the ship was struck again on 5 July 1934. The Shaw was sold for scrapping to Michael Flynn, Inc., Brooklyn, New York, on 22 August 1934.

Future admiral stars were destined for Shaw crew member Lt. C.H. ("Sock") McMorris and Shaw skipper L/Cmdr. W.F. "Bull" Halsey, Jr.


The second destroyer Shaw (DD-373) had her keel laid down on 1 October 1934; almost a year after the previous Shaw (DD-68) had her name canceled from the Navy records. The keel was laid down at the United States Navy Yard, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. She was launched on Navy Day, 28 October 1935, and was sponsored by Miss Dorothy L. Tinker. The Shaw was commissioned into the US Navy on 18 September 1936. Her commanding officer was L/Cmdr. E.A. Mitchell, USN.

The Shaw belonged to the Mahanclass of destroyers (ship numbers 364 to 379). The building program for these destroyers began in 1934 during the Depression (providing needed employment) and included a total of 16 ships. These ships, all but one of which were commissioned in 1936 (the 16th in 1937), were to be built around the most modern machinery available. Their General Electric turbines would turn at a much higher speed than in previous ships. The Shaw's high-pressure turbine speed would be 5850 revolutions per minute (earlier destroyers had 3460 rpm). Double reduction gears and 700-degree boilers with economizers rounded out the engineering plant. These Mahanclass destroyers were said to have "the most rugged and reliable of any main drive installation ever installed in the Navy up to that time."

The Shaw had a displacement of 1450-tons (the weight of the amount of water the ship displaced) and was 341-ft 4-in in length. Her beam was 34-ft 8-in (the width of the ship at its widest possible point). Her propeller shaft horsepower was 48,000 which gave the Shaw a rated "war steaming" speed (in 1940) of 35-kts. The destroyer's sailing radius was 6790 nautical miles at 15.2-kts (or 2880-mi at 25. …