The brig, frigate, and screw gunboat named Adams all honored John Adams, the second President of the United States and an ardent champion of the Navy. See John Adams (q.v.) for his biography.
Adams (DM-27) was named in honor of Samuel Adams, born at Northampton, Mass., on 10 April 1912. Appointed to the Naval Academy from Massachusetts' 2d Congressional District in 1931, Adams graduated in 1935. Following sea duty in the battleships West Virginia (BB-48) (28 June to 19 July 1935), and Tennessee (BB-43) (19 July 1935 to 2 January 1938), Adams underwent flight instruction at the Naval Air Station. Pensacola, Fla., and was designated a naval aviator on 17 January 1939. Promoted to lieutenant (j.g.) soon thereafter, he served a brief tour of duty in the Saratoga (CV-3) air group from 12 April to 12 May 1939, before he was assigned to Bombing Squadron (VB) 5, attached to the aircraft carrier Yorktown (CV-5) on 13 May 1939.
Yorktown, to which VB-5 was attached, operated with the Pacific Fleet until the spring of 1941, when she was transferred to the Atlantic. Early in this period, VB-5 operated off Ranger (CV-4) as VB-5 and other Yorktown squadrons exchanged with units from that carrier, carried out neutrality patrols in the North Atlantic. Adams remained with the squadron through its transition at Norfolk from the Northrop BT-1 to the famous Douglas SBD "Dauntless," and flew patrols from Yorktown when that carrier covered convoys in the North Atlantic in the fall of 1941.
Soon after Pearl Harbor, Yorktown returned to the Pacific, and took part in the raids on Japanese advanced bases in the Marshalls and Gilberts. Adams, by that point one of the more senior pilots in the group, led a section of SBDs from VB-5 in raids on Japanese shipping and installations at Jaluit on 1 February 1942. A little over a month later, he again led a section, in the combined Yorktown-Lexington (CV-2) air group strike on Japanese shipping off Lae and Salamaua, New Guinea, on 10 March 1942. He also led sections in the raids on Tulagi (4 May 1942) and in the Battle of the Coral Sea (7 and 8 May 1942). For his performance in those engagements in the first six months of the war, he received two Navy Crosses.
Although VB-5 had performed arduous duty in the early wartime period, the circumstances prevailing shortly before the Battle of Midway meant that there would be no rest for it. Temporarily redesignated as "Scouting" Squadron 5, VB-5 returned to the fray in Yorktown, which had been hastily repaired after being damaged in the Coral Sea.
During the action at Midway on 4 June 1942, dive bombers from Yorktown and Enterprise mortally damaged three of the Japanese striking force's four carriers. Adams and his wingman, Lt. Harlan R. Dickson, were among the VB-5 pilots assigned a search sector in the effort to locate Hiryu, the one carrier left undamaged.
They found their quarry, and though Adams and Dickson were attacked by a "Zero" fighter, Adams radioed a precise contact report which enabled a striking group of planes from Enterprise (CV-6)—including those from Yorktown'sorphaned VB-3—to locate Hiryu and score hits that knocked her out of the battle and led to her ultimate abandonment.
The next afternoon, while flying a search mission from Enterprise, Adams spotted the Japanese destroyer Tanikaze. As he began his dive, he urged his wingmen to take their time in order to make accurate attacks. His SBD dove into the cloud cover, and was never seen again. Adams and his radioman, Aviation Radioman 1st Class Joseph J. Karrol, fell to the destroyer's antiaircraft fire.
For his significant role in the Battle of Midway, Adams was posthumously awarded a third Navy Cross.
(Fr: t. 530; lbp. 113'; b. 34'; dph 10'9"; cpl. 220; a. 24 12-pdrs.)
The first Adams—a frigate rated at 28 guns—was laid down in 1797 at New York City by John Jackson and William Sheffield and launched on 8 June 1799. Capt. Richard Valentine Morris took command of the ship.
The frigate departed New York in mid-September 1799 and headed for the West Indies to protect American shipping from attacks by French privateers. She arrived at Saint Christopher on 10 October and soon began cruising nearby waters in search of French men of war and any prizes which had been captured by warships flying French colors.
Later that month, she recaptured the brig Zylpha and assisted Insurgent in taking an unidentified 4-gun French privateer and freeing an English brig and a schooner from Boston which that vessel of prey had seized.
On 12 November, she again teamed with Insurgent in recapturing the 14-gun English brig Margaret. On the 15th, they took the French privateer Le Onze Vendémiaire. On the 20th, they cooperated in liberating the schooner Nancy which had struck her colors on the 18th.
On 10 January 1800, Adams and Eagle made the French schooner La Fougeuse their prize and, late in the month, Adams recaptured the schooner Alphia. Two more French schooners, L'Heureuse Rencontre and Isabella fell into her hands in February. The following month, she freed the sloop Nonpareil and she did the same for the schooner Priscilla in April.
But Adams' most successful month came in May when she recaptured an unidentified schooner and teamed up with Insurgent once more in freeing a British letter of marque. During the same month she also recaptured another schooner named Nancy, one called Grinder, and an unidentified brig while capturing the brig Dove and the schooner Renommée.
In need of repairs, Adams returned to New York in July 1800, but early in the fall headed back to the Caribbean under the command of Capt. Thomas Robinson. However, on this cruise, she did not have the success which she had enjoyed under Capt. Richard Morris but for the most part was limited to patrol and escort duty. She did manage to recapture the British schooner Grendin, but the date of the action is unknown. On 23 March, the Secretary of the Navy ordered her home and she was laid up at New York.
However, trouble in the Mediterranean prevented her respite from being long. The Barbary states on the northern coast of Africa were capturing American merchantmen attempting to trade in that ancient sea and enslaving their crews. Adams was reactivated in the spring of 1802 under the command of Capt. Hugh George Canfield. On 10 June 1802, she departed New York and headed for the Strait of Gibraltar carrying orders for Commodore R. V. Morris, her first commanding officer who was now in command of the American Mediterranean Squadron. She arrived there on 22 July and remained in that port blockading the Tripolitan cruiser Meshuda lest she escape and prey on American shipping. It was not until 8 April 1803 that she was freed of this duty. She then joined the rest of Morris' squadron in operations of Tripoli.
However, as a squadron commander, Morris seemed to have lost the dash and daring he had displayed in operations against the French in the West Indies while in command of a single ship. His indecisiveness in the Mediterranean prompted Washington to order his recall and he sailed for home in Adams on 25 September. The frigate carried Morris to Washington and was placed in ordinary at the navy yard there in November 1803.
Reactivated under command of Capt. Alexander Murray in July 1805, Adams cruised along the coast of the United States from New York to Florida protecting American commerce. In the autumn of the following year she was again laid up in Washington and—but for service enforcing the Embargo Act in 1809—remained inactive at the nation's capital until the outbreak of the War of 1812. In August 1811 she became the receiving ship at the Washington Navy Yard.
In June 1812, Adams was cut in half amidships and lengthened 15 feet in the course of being completely rebuilt as a sloop-of-war. Commanded by Capt Charles Morris, she was ready for action by the end of the year, but was bottled up in the Chesapeake Bay by blockading British warships until she finally managed to slip out to sea on 18 January 1814. She cruised in the eastern Atlantic and along the African coast and took five merchantmen prizes before putting in at Savannah, Ga., in April.
Underway again in May, she headed for the Newfoundland Banks and ultimately sailed eastward to waters off the British Isles. During this cruise, she took five more merchant ships, chased two more into the Shannon River, and barely managed to escape from a much larger British warship. Near the end of her homeward passage, she ran aground on the isle of Haute on 17 August 1814 and was damaged seriously. Skillful seamanship aided by a rising tide managed to refloat the ship and despite heavy leaking she made it into the Penobscot River and reached Hampden, Maine. There on 3 September 1814, she was scuttled and set ablaze to prevent capture by a large and powerful British squadron.
Adams—a newly constructed 200-ton brig—was purchased during the summer of 1812 by General William Hull, the Army commander at Detroit (now in Michigan) to add to the defenses of that forward outpost. However, before the ship could be armed, Hull surrendered her along with Detroit on 16 August 1812. The British armed the prize and commissioned her as HMS Detroit. She and HMS Caledonia gave the British undisputed control of Lake Erie. All changed early on the morning of 9 October 1812 when a boat expedition commanded by Lt. Jesse D. Elliott captured the two vessels right under the muzzles of the guns at Fort Erie. Caledonia made it safely to the temporary American base at Black Rock, but Detroit, owing to light wind, was swept away by the Niagra River's strong current and was forced to anchor within range of British guns. An artillery duel ensued. Elliott brought all his guns to his engaged side and continued the cannonade until his supply of ammunition was exhausted. Thereupon, he cut the cable; and the brig drifted down the river. She grounded on Squaw Island within range of both British and American batteries. Elliott and his men abandoned her; and, almost immediately, some two score British soldiers took brief possession of the brig. American guns soon drove them out with great loss, and both sides began pounding her with gunfire. The Americans finally set fire to and destroyed the battered hulk.