William Bainbridge--born on 7 May 1774 at Princeton, N.J.--went to sea in a Philadelphia merchantman at the age of 15. He developed rapidly as a seaman and leader and attained command of the ship Hope by the end of 1793. During ensuing years, he took her on trading voyages to European ports--calling often at Bordeaux--as well as to the islands of the West Indies.
After trouble with Republican France and with the Barbary pirates prompted the United States to revive its Navy, Bainbridge was commissioned a lieutenant and given command of Retaliation. While that 14-gun schooner was protecting American merchantmen in the Caribbean on 20 November 1798, Retaliation encountered the French frigates L'Insurgente and Volontaire and their superior firepower forced him to surrender. As a prisoner on board Volontaire, Bainbridge tricked the senior French officer into recalling L'Insurgente which had been pursuing Montezuma and Norfolk and thus permitted these small American warships to escape. During his imprisonment at Guadaloupe, Bainbridge did everything in his power to protect and to further the interests of his countrymen who were also held captive, and he was later permitted to return to home in Retaliation as a cartel ship carrying other Americans who had been held captive on the island.
Promoted to master commandant and given command of Norfolk, one of the warships he had saved from capture, Bainbridge joined Commodore Thomas Tingey's squadron in waters surrounding the Leeward Islands on 24 May 1799. On 5 June, his brig engaged a 14-gun French privateer and was about to force the enemy ship to surrender when the wind of a sudden storm carried away Norfolk's two top masts, allowing her opponent to escape.
Following repairs at St. Kitts, Norfolk cruised with Ganges and assisted that flagship in capturing the French privateer Vainqueur. At the end of July, Norfolk and Retaliation--recently recaptured and once more flying American colors--left St. Kitts escorting a large group of merchant ships. When the convoy encountered a large French frigate, Bainbridge ordered his charges to scatter and then lured the enemy warship away from the merchantmen, beginning a long chase in which the American brig finally escaped. The American convoy later reassembled and proceeded on to New York where it arrived on 12 August without having lost a single ship.
In September, Bainbridge got underway in Norfolk for Hispaniola to combat both picaroons and French privateers. In one instance, the brig acted as a forerunner of a World War I "Q" ship. On 30 October, off Gonaive Island, she pretended to be a defenseless merchant ship, keeping her gunports closed to lure pirates. A barge manned by about 50 men approached her; but, after coming within cannon range, became suspicious and shied off under "...a broadside of round and canister which sprinkled all around them." Unfortunately, the wind failed as the Americans were beginning the pursuit and allowed the picaroons to row frantically away.
A short while later, Norfolk joined the frigate Boston; and, on 7 November, they captured a French armed sloop. Norfolk then sailed to Cuba for patrol duty in the vicinity of Havana. On 20 February 1800, she chased the French schooner Beauty into shallow water where the American brig could not follow. Bainbridge then used Norfolk's guns so effectively that he battered the enemy privateer--which had been a great plague to American commerce--to pieces. Thereafter, while Norfolk neither captured nor sank any enemy ships, she kept the coast of Cuba free of enemy warships until sailing for home escorting 23 merchantmen.
The convoy reached Philadelphia on 12 April 1800; and, a bit more than a month later, the 25-year-old Bainbridge received his commission as a captain. The Treaty of Mortfontaine soon ended hostilities with France obviating another voyage to the West Indies for the successful young officer, but a task far less to his liking awaited.
The Barbary Powers--city states along the coast of North Africa--had long claimed hegemony in the Mediterranean Sea and were demanding tribute from all nations whose ships traded in its waters. Placed in command of George Washington, a merchantman converted to a 32-gun warship, Bainbridge was charged with carrying the American payment for the year 1800 to the Dey of Algiers. After delivering the tribute, a cargo of stores and timber, to Algiers and while preparing to sail for home, Bainbridge was surprised to receive instructions from the Dey to carry a special mission to the Sultan in Constantinople. Although he did so under protest, Bainbridge took the opportunity to make friends there and received a letter of protection from the Capudan Pasha which enabled him to free several enslaved Americans and to sail for home with them unmolested. Upon returning to the United States, Bainbridge took command of the frigate Essex and sailed back to the Mediterranean with Commodore Richard Dale's squadron. He arrived at Gibraltar on 1 July 1801 and cruised the "middle sea" protecting American trade until the summer of 1802 when he returned home.
Following leave and shore duty, Bainbridge assumed command of the frigate Philadelphia and set out for the Mediterranean to join Commodore Preble's squadron in operations against Tripoli. Soon after reaching Gibraltar on 24 August 1803, the frigate began to hunt two corsairs reportedly preying upon American shipping near Cape de Gata, Spain. Two days later, Bainbridge captured the Moroccan ship Mirboka--operating under a commission of Tangier--and freed the privateer's prize, the American merchant brig Celia.
Philadelphia--accompanied by schooner Vixen--next escorted American merchantmen along the southeastern coast of Spain and then visited Malta en route to Tripoli where they established a blockade. Soon after, Bainbridge sent Vixen to sea to hunt for two Tripolitan warships which had been reported to be preying on merchantmen in the Mediterranean. While the schooner was away, Philadelphia ran aground off Tripoli harbor on 31 October while chasing a corsair vessel. Efforts to refloat the frigate failed and, to make matters worse, Philadelphia's guns could not bear on the attacking Tripolitan gunboats, who began firing on the frigate with impunity. Able neither to defend his ship nor to escape, Bainbridge surrendered.
Freed some 19 months later, Bainbridge came home late in 1805 and received assignment to the New York Navy Yard. Financial embarrassment as a result of his extended captivity, however, forced him to request release from active duty in order to enter merchant service. He continued so engaged until the spring of 1808 when he received orders to command frigate President. Not only did he take command of that 44-gun frigate but also, in her, broke the broad pennant of a commodore for the first time, taking command of the station comprising the waters along the southern Atlantic coast. That duty lasted until 1810 at which time Bainbridge took up merchant service once again.
Yet, by 1811, it seemed unlikely that circumstances would permit him his commercial ventures for long. For years, the Wars of the French Revolution and the Napoleonic Wars had resulted in friction between the United States and the warring powers. Since the Royal Navy generally controlled the oceans, Great Britain abraded American sensibilities much more than did France; and war with the old mother country became increasingly more probable with each succeeding provocation. When Bainbridge heard of the incident between his former command, President, and HMS Little Belt just 50 miles off Cape Henry, Va., he made haste to get home and offer his services in Washington.
He performed his first important deed for the country in the War of 1812 when he joined Commodore Charles Stewart at the outset in opposing the Madison administration's overly cautious and purely defensive naval policy and to convince influential members of Congress to champion an aggressive approach to the sea war. This campaign not only succeeded in altering the policy but also quickly brought enduring fame to the Navy in the form of some of its most spectacular single-ship victories.
Moreover, Bainbridge later contributed one of those brilliant victories himself. After serving ashore initially at the Charlestown (Boston) Navy Yard in 1812, he relieved Isaac Hull as captain of Constitution when Hull asked for and received a leave of absence after his own great triumph over HMS Guerrière. Sailing in command of a small squadron made up of Constitution, Essex and Hornet, Bainbridge took his unit south to hunt British shipping and to protect American shipping in the waters off Brazil. On 29 December 1812, he encountered the 38-gun British frigate, HMS Java, near Bahia, Brazil.
Bainbridge cleared his ship for action and attacked straightaway. There followed a lively action of maneuver and cannonade, each frigate striving to cross the other's "T" without being overtaken by that fate herself. Bainbridge suffered two wounds during the fight. Early on a sniper's ball struck him in the hip; and, later, he sustained grievous splinter wounds when a cannonball shattered Constitution's wheel. Nevertheless, Bainbridge retained command and fought his ship superbly. Steering by means of tackles below decks, he succeeded in raking Java time and again until his battered adversary could do nothing but strike her colors. So badly damaged was the British ship that Bainbridge took off her surviving crewmen and burned her.
In February 1813, he returned to Boston where he spent the rest of the war supervising the construction of the 74-gun ship-of-the-line Independence. When that ship-of-the-line finally put to sea from Boston on 3 July 1815, she wore the pennant of Commodore Bainbridge and led a squadron headed for the Mediterranean to chastise the Algerine pirates. By the time that Bainbridge's squadron arrived, however, Commodore Stephen Decatur had already accomplished the mission for which both his and Bainbridge's squadrons had been dispatched. Though his squadron had arrived too late to help impress upon the Barbary pirates the virtues of restraint, Bainbridge took over as commander of the American naval forces in the Mediterranean when he arrived and Decatur, his junior, went home. In that role, he performed a service just as important as, if less glamorous than, Decatur's by keeping the pressure on the Barbary states to adhere to their newly learned behavior.
Bainbridge himself returned to the United States late in 1815, sailing Independence into Boston in November. There, he remained, still flying his commodore's flag in Independence, for a little over four years. In April 1820, he put to sea in the ship-of-the-line Columbus and embarked on his last duty afloat. Once again, he cruised the waters of the Mediterranean Sea in command of the squadron that maintained respect for the commerce that travelled under the American flag. Bainbridge came back to the United States in 1821 and, after failing to supplant Isaac Hull at the Charlestown (Boston) Navy Yard, served as the president of the Board of Naval Commissioners in Washington during the mid-1820s. After that assignment, Bainbridge became commandant of the Philadelphia Navy Yard, a post he held until 1831 and again briefly in 1833. Commodore Bainbridge died of pneumonia at Philadelphia on 27 July 1833 and was buried there at Christ Church.
(DD-246: displacement 1,215 tons; length 314'4½"; beam 30'11½" (waterline); draft 9'9-3/4"; speed 35 knots; complement 122; armament 4 4-inch guns, 2 3-inch, 12 21-inch torpedo tubes; class Clemson)
The third Bainbridge (DD-246) was laid down on 27 May 1919 at Camden, N.J., by the New York Shipbuilding Co.; launched on 12 June 1920; sponsored by Miss Juliet Greene; and commissioned at the Philadelphia Navy Yard on 9 February 1921, Ens. Joseph T. Moran, Jr., in temporary command until relieved on 23 February 1921 by Lt. Comdr. Hewlett Thebaud.
Going into service in a Navy suffering the effects of manpower shortages caused by postwar demobilization and magnified by the completion of the massive shipbuilding program begun during the war, Bainbridge spent her first 10 months of active duty almost becalmed in her assignment to the Atlantic Fleet's Destroyer Squadrons. Commissioned too late to participate, she missed the 1921 edition of the annual winter maneuvers, a part of which were held on the west coasts of Central and South America. Instead, she steamed north late in February to Newport, R.I., whence she carried out her shakedown training. In March, the warship sailed south to Charleston, S.C., where she remained until early May. At that time, she returned north, stopping off at New York before reentering Newport early in June. Most of the summer passed with Bainbridge idly moored with only half a crew. In fact, she did not put to sea again until heading back to Charleston early in October. After a short visit to New York, Bainbridge arrived in Charleston on 13 October and remained there for the rest of 1921.
By contrast, 1922 proved to be an active one for Bainbridge. Despite the cancellation of full-scale winter maneuvers as a result of fuel shortages caused by congressional parsimony, those portions of the exercises involving target practice and engineering competition took place as planned. Consequently, Bainbridge departed Charleston on 5 January 1922 and arrived in Guacanayabo Bay, Cuba, on the 12th. For nearly three months, she plied the waters of the West Indies executing elementary gunnery drills and carrying out engineering competitions that focused on improving fuel economy. The destroyer concluded those evolutions late in April and headed north to Philadelphia, Pa., where she remained for nearly three months. In mid-July, Bainbridge set out for Boston and a month of operations in New England waters mostly off the coast of Maine. She completed that duty at the end of August and returned south to Lynnhaven Roads, Va., for about a week before visiting New York for two weeks in the middle of September.
Bainbridge came back to the Norfolk area later that month, but she did not stay long. On 2 October 1922, the warship departed Hampton Roads bound for the Mediterranean Sea in company with 11 other Squadron 14 destroyers. Trouble in the Near East--Greco-Turkish strife over control of western Anatolia in the wake of World War I--prompted this first deployment abroad. The two destroyer divisions were dispatched to the Near East in answer to the request of Rear Admiral Mark L. Bristol, United States High Commissioner at Constantinople, for reinforcements to the naval forces at his command after Smyrna fell to the Turkish nationalists in September 1922. Bainbridge reached Constantinople, Turkey, on 22 October. She then operated with the United States Naval Detachment in Turkish waters until the spring of 1923 as one of the ships that helped Rear Admiral Bristol to maintain "an adequate reserve" at Constantinople and that carried out regular port visits to monitor conditions at the Mediterranean ports of Anatolia, Syria and Palestine, along the Turkish coast of the Black Sea, and at The Pireaus, Greece. In addition, she and her compatriots also supported the High Commissioner's mission by transporting official and semi-official passengers between those ports and by carrying mail.
Returning to Constantinople from Smyrna, Turkey--the last stop on a circuit of such visits that also included the Greek ports of Athens, Mitylene, and Phaeleron Bay--on 16 December 1922, Bainbridge encountered the French military transport Vinh- Long ablaze in the Sea of Marmora and rushed to the stricken ship's assistance. The American destroyer quickly came alongside Vinh-Long and made fast to her in order to start taking off her passengers, a few of whom were women and children. However, the transport also carried a large amount of ammunition, and the fire reached Vinh-Long's after magazine very soon after Bainbridge secured to her side. The resulting explosion wrenched the destroyer loose from the transport and showered her with fiery debris.
After an explosion in Vinh-Long's forward magazine foiled Bainbridge's second attempt to lie alongside the burning transport, Lt. Comdr. Walter A. Edwards, the destroyer's commanding officer, decided to wedge his ship into the French vessel by ramming her. That unorthodox tactic proved successful and every living person left on board Vinh-Long--many had already jumped overboard to escape the fire--got off safely. At the same time, the warship's boats worked the waters surrounding the pair, picking up those people who had jumped overboard. In all, Bainbridge rescued 482 of the 495 people who had been on board Vinh-Long. For his heroic leadership, Edwards received the Medal of Honor; a grateful French government awarded him the Legion of Honor.
The adventure with Vinh-Long successfully concluded, Bainbridge went back to work calling at ports throughout the region serving as eyes and ears for the High Commissioner. Just before Bainbridge arrived on the scene in Turkey in late October, an armistice was brokered at Mudania that led to a conference being called at Lausanne, Switzerland, to make peace. The conference plodded along during the winter of 1922 and 1923, while Bainbridge and her colleagues continued to police the remnants of the Ottoman Empire. The conference broke up early in February 1923 over the status of Mosul and over the abolition of European extraterritorial privileges in Turkey, but the meeting started again seven weeks later. Once the Lausanne Conference resumed in April 1923 and a treaty seemed imminent, a phased reduction in the American naval presence in Turkish waters became possible; and Bainbridge's division started for home on 18 May 1923, returning to the United States at New York on 12 June.
Following thirteen weeks of repairs at New York, the warship made a brief visit to Newport, R.I., early in September before heading south to serve as an observation platform for aerial bombardment "tests" conducted by U.S. Army Air Service Martin MB-1 bombers on New Jersey (BB-16) and Virginia (BB-13) off Cape Hatteras, N.C., on 5 September. Back at Newport by mid-month, Bainbridge spent a fortnight in the vicinity before returning south to Hampton Roads for seven weeks of exercises on the southern drill grounds. At the end of that duty in mid-November, she entered the New York Navy Yard and spent the rest of the year making repairs.
The repairs ended at the beginning of the new year, and Bainbridge stood out of New York on 3 January 1924 bound for Panama to begin the first in the lengthy series of exercises comprising the annual fleet maneuvers. There, Battle Fleet--based on the west coast--and Bainbridge's east-coast-based Scouting Fleet joined with Army units in Panama to carry out Army-Navy Problem No. 2, a series of exercises designed to test the Canal Zone defenses and canal transit facilities' ability to meet the demands of a defensive crisis. Bainbridge remained in the Caribbean region training with the combined fleets through the end of April, though she moved frequently between Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands in the northeastern part of the region and the waters to the southwest off Panama. Once the canal defenses had been tested, the larger units of the fleet moved to the eastern Caribbean--basing at Culebra or Guantanamo Bay--for the rest of their maneuvers. Battle Fleet headed back to the west coast early in April, but Scouting Fleet continued to train in the West Indies until the beginning of May. Thus, Bainbridge did not embark on the journey north until 4 May. She arrived in New York on the 8th and stayed until the 20th when she set out for Hampton Roads. In June, the warship returned north to visit New York and Newport before beginning two months of repairs at Norfolk in September. Emerging from the yard at the beginning of November, Bainbridge sailed south to Guantanamo Bay for several weeks before heading back to New York on 4 December.
As she had done the previous year, the warship stood out of New York on 3 January 1925 and set off for the West Indies to take part in the annual series of fleet maneuvers. This time, however, instead of meeting Battle Fleet on the Atlantic side of Panama, Scouting Fleet went to the Pacific. Thus, after some preliminary drills around Guantanamo Bay in January and early February, Bainbridge joined the rest of Scouting Fleet in passing the canal on 17 February. The transit to San Diego began a week later and took more than two weeks because, along the way, the united fleets carried out Fleet Problem V, which simulated the seizure of an unfortified anchorage near enemy territory. The destroyer finally reached San Diego with the other units of the two fleets on 13 March and remained there for three weeks. Then, after a call at San Francisco early in April, she set out for Hawaii where the rest of the maneuvers took place. Based at Pearl Harbor, Bainbridge devoted late April and all of May to a variety of training missions, among which were probes of some early Hawaiian defense plans.
Early in June, she began the long voyage back to the Atlantic with Scouting Fleet and called at San Diego in late June before retransiting the Panama Canal on 10 July. After stops at Lynnhaven Roads and New York, she arrived in Newport on 25 July. The destroyer did not leave Rhode Island waters until early September when she made a two-week port call at New York before sailing off on a two-month assignment in the West Indies. At the end of November, Bainbridge returned to New York where she stayed for the balance of 1925.
Overhaul kept Bainbridge in New York, away from the first part of the annual maneuvers, carried out in January and February 1926. Finally, she left New York late in February to join the last stages of the annual maneuvers in the West Indies and then devoted March and April to those evolutions. After that, the warship returned north to New York early in May and, in June, embarked on a series of short cruises to give naval reservists training in underway operations. Most often, these trips only took her as far as Newport, R.I.; but, on one occasion in mid-July, she visited Charleston, S.C. She concluded her reserve training at the end of July and then spent the month of August in port at New York. In September, after visits to Newport and to Norfolk, Va., Bainbridge made a quick voyage south to Cuba and Haiti, returning to New York on 20 September and abiding there for the rest of 1926.
On 5 January 1927, the destroyer stood out of New York to resume full participation in the annual fleet maneuvers. Along the way, she stopped off at Yorktown, Va., where she disembarked an International News Service motion picture cameraman who had done some newsreel work on the trip from New York. Bainbridge then resumed her voyage south and arrived in Guantanamo Bay on 9 January. Soon after her arrival, however, mechanical failures forced her back to New York where she spent February and March undergoing repairs. When she returned south in early April, Bainbridge took part in some drills near western Haiti and then set off for Panama, bound ostensibly for the fleet concentration at Colon. Instead, soon after reaching Panama, she transited the canal on her way to Corinto, Nicaragua, where she took up station on 25 April in support of Marines working to restore order to that chronically troubled state. For the next six weeks, the destroyer served with the Special Service Squadron cruising Nicaragua's Pacific coast delivering supplies and mail to the marines and assisting in the collection of arms from the rebel forces.
That assignment ended on 4 June, and Bainbridge sailed back through the canal on the 8th. From Panama, the warship made her way back to the east coast via Guantanamo Bay and stood back into New York on 13 June. Once again, she embarked upon two months of brief training cruises with reservists on board. This time, however, the voyages included Charleston, S.C., on their itinerary more often than had those of the previous summer. Bainbridge concluded that service by mid-August and then spent a month at Newport before setting off south on 12 September. Once in Charleston, she stayed there the entire autumn of 1927, only returning to New York early in December.
By the beginning of 1928, a definite pattern in her schedule of employment had emerged for Bainbridge. Ignoring any special assignments such as the duty with the Special Service Squadron, each year began with the annual maneuvers--including fleet problems and concentrations--usually carried out in the West Indies or on one coast of Panama or the other. She then returned north to train reservists during the summer months. Finally, the destroyer spent each fall at Charleston, only returning north to New York for a month or so around the Christmas and New Years' Day holidays. This pattern endured until the fall of 1930 when, instead of making her trip north to New York at the beginning of December, Bainbridge made it in October and went only as far as Philadelphia, Pa., where she was decommissioned on 23 December 1930 and placed in reserve.
Her enforced idleness, however, only lasted about 15 months. On 9 March 1932, Bainbridge was placed in reduced commission, Lt. Comdr. Ray H. Wakeman in command. Assigned to Rotating Reserve Squadron 19, she spent the next 18 months carrying out Naval Reserve training cruises on the east coast. On 1 September 1933, the destroyer was returned to full commission and assigned to Scouting Force's Destroyer Division (DesDiv) 8 along with Goff (DD-247), McFarland (DD-237), and Reuben James (DD-245). These four, all fresh out of the Rotating Reserve, soon headed to the West Indies for a temporary assignment with the Special Service Squadron after a revolt had broken out in Cuba in August. The mission constituted Bainbridge's second tour of duty with the squadron protecting the lives and property of United States citizens during Latin American political turmoil, a task that she and her division mates took up once more in the waters around Cuba while the revolution that forced President Machado into exile in August resulted in power being assumed by a military junta. That junta gradually evolved into the dictatorship of Fulgencio Batista, which lasted until 1959 when it was itself replaced by the communist regime of Fidel Castro.
In the short term, though, the junta brought relative calm back to Cuba by the spring of 1934; and this allowed Bainbridge's division to be released from the assignment with the Special Service Squadron. After some exercises in nearby waters, the destroyers returned north in May to take up the usual summer training schedule of Atlantic-based units. Those activities consisted of maneuvers off the Virginia capes and drills in New England waters until September when Bainbridge's division headed south again for exercises in the West Indies. At the conclusion of those evolutions, she sailed to Panama where she transited the canal along with the rest of Scouting Force. After much preliminary training along the west coast in the early months of 1935, Bainbridge and her division joined the other units of Scouting Force and those of Battle Force in Fleet Problem XVI carried put in the northeastern Pacific between Hawaii, the Aleutians, and the Pacific Northwest in April and May of 1935.
Instead of sending Scouting Force back to the east coast after Fleet Problem XVI, the United States Fleet remained concentrated on the west coast. By the following fall Bainbridge and her division mates had a new administrative assignment as well, becoming DesDiv 17 of Battle Force's DesRon 6. Based at San Diego, she spent the fall of 1935 and the spring of 1936 drilling with the other Battle Force destroyers along the coasts of California, Mexico and Central America as far south as Panama. Later that spring, she took part in Fleet Problem XVII, carried out on the Pacific coast of Panama. That summer, the destroyer accompanied the Fleet to Alaskan waters and then to Hawaii, before returning to the west coast to resume training in division tactics out of San Diego. That employment occupied her through the fall and winter months until preparations began anew for the annual maneuvers in the spring of 1937. Fleet Problem XVIII took her back to Hawaii in April, but she returned to San Diego late in May to pursue local training missions through the summer and well into the autumn. Then, on 20 November 1937, Bainbridge was placed out of commission, in reserve, at San Diego.
When Bainbridge went out commission in 1937, she did so to free up sailors to man the first new destroyers of the "Two-Ocean Navy" construction program of the 1934 Vinson-Trammell Act just then beginning to enter service. In 1937 alone, 25 new destroyers were commissioned, and another 12 entered service in 1938. At the time, the Navy hoped to replace the old destroyers with the new ones before the increasingly grave international situation deteriorated completely into war, a war for which it remained unprepared in the late 1930s. Unfortunately, time began to run out in 1939 when war broke out in Europe that September. Though the United States stayed out of the conflict for more than two years, it stimulated the country's efforts to prepare for eventual entry into the war. One such move was to bring some of the decommissioned flushdeckers back into service. Accordingly, on 26 September 1939, Bainbridge was recommissioned at San Diego, Calif., Lt. Comdr. Edward P. Creehan in command.
In addition, the Roosevelt administration made two other moves that affected Bainbridge just after the outbreak of the European war. First, the President declared the Western Hemisphere to be a neutral area in the European conflict, and then, he ordered the Navy to carry out a "Neutrality Patrol" to enforce the measure. It was for this duty that the Navy brought Bainbridge and many of her sisters back into commission. Yet, despite President Roosevelt's desire to get the patrol up and running, shortages and delays hampered the effort, particularly in San Diego. While most of the destroyers recommissioned from the east coast were actively patrolling by the end of October, west coast ships did not start reporting until late November. Still, Bainbridge was on patrol in Caribbean waters by early 1940, and she covered the approaches to the Panama Canal until the summer of 1940, when her base of operations shifted to Key West, Fla. From there, she worked the waters of the Florida Strait and the Gulf of Mexico. After the fall of France in the summer of 1940, Bainbridge briefly became part of a scratch force that the Navy assembled in case the need arose to seize the French colony at Martinique that harbored several warships loyal to the Vichy government. Fortunately, the eventuality never came to pass, and the destroyer concentrated on her patrols.
Late in 1940, the United States began to back away from the Neutrality Patrol concept because it was an inefficient way in which to employ naval forces and because it prevented the units involved from getting the training they needed. Instead, the administration began to lean toward outright escort-of-convoy operations, work that integrated better with training schedules and which offered practical experience in the conduct of combat missions. Still, though the United States continued to hold back from flagrant intervention in the Atlantic battle, the Neutrality Patrol was terminated on 18 March 1941, and the Navy began to organize and train for a more active role in the Atlantic. Thus, by late February 1941, Bainbridge found herself at Norfolk, Va., as a unit of a reconstituted Atlantic Fleet. In addition, she was assigned to the "Support Force," also designated Task Force 4, in order to prepare for convoy duty.
On 6 March, the destroyer left Norfolk and set a course for her new base of operations at Newport, R.I. She arrived there on the 7th and began preparations for the convoy-escort missions to come. Those preparations included operations at sea along the east coast from Rhode Island to New Jersey as well as a two-week repair period at the New York Navy Yard in April and another six days at the Philadelphia Navy Yard in May. Late in May, Bainbridge steamed to the Newfoundland coast where she and several other flushdeckers patrolled a line just west of Cape Farewell watching for the German battleship Bismarck that appeared to be trying to break out into the Atlantic. Fortunately, units of the Royal Navy tracked Bismarck down fairly quickly, and Fairey "Swordfish" torpedo bombers from HMS Ark Royal damaged her enough for HMS George V and HMS Rodney to catch her on 27 May and pound her with their heavy main batteries. Then, HMS Dorsetshire delivered the coup de grace with torpedoes.
With that danger eliminated, Bainbridge put into Argentia for several days and, after an overnight stop at St. John's on 13 and 14 June, went out to help Overton (DD-239) escort the Army transport Alexander to New York. The little convoy made New York on the 19th, but Bainbridge put to sea again that same day to return to Newport and arrived there on the 20th. The destroyer went into the New York Navy Yard again in mid-July for a week of hull repairs, getting back to Newport on the 20th.
Not long after the destruction of the Bismarck, the Roosevelt administration had taken another small step closer to war by deciding to take over the occupation and defense of Iceland from Great Britain, freeing the British garrison for more urgent duty. As a result, Bainbridge soon became intimately familiar with the sea lanes between New England and Iceland. On 28 July, she made a rendezvous at sea with Task Force (TF) 16 built around Mississippi (BB-41) and Wasp (CV-7) -- the carrier transporting carrying 30 Curtiss P-40 fighters and three PT-17 trainers of the Army's 33d Pursuit Squadron--and also comprising Quincy (CA-39), Wichita (CA-45), Vincennes (CA-44), Semmes (AG-24), Almaack (AK-27), American Legion (AP-35), Mizar (AF-12), and Sangamon (AO-28); all bound for the United States' newest outpost at Iceland. The force reached Reykjavik on 6 August, the Army fighters took off from Wasp successfully, and then the carrier headed back to Norfolk accompanied by Vincennes, O'Brien (DD-415), and Walke (DD-416). Bainbridge and the rest of the screen saw the supply ships into the harbor where they spent several days unloading. The convoy left Reykjavik on 12 August, but Bainbridge and Overton had to wait for a pair of Icelandic merchantmen and did not head back to the United States until the next day.
The destroyer returned to the United States at Portland, Maine, late in August and carried out training in nearby Casco Bay until early in September. On the 5th, she left Portland with TF 15 to rendezvous with another Iceland-bound reinforcement convoy. Bainbridge helped escort an Army brigade comprising the 10th Infantry Regiment, the 46th Artillery Battalion, and various other support units to Reykjavik, arriving there on the 16th and remaining until the 26th. From Iceland, the warship steamed with TF 15 as far as Argentia, Newfoundland, where she put in on 3 October and joined TF 4, the Atlantic Fleet Support Force charged with escorting convoys and fighting submarines. Bainbridge made one more convoy-escort mission to Iceland during the first part of November and then retired to the Boston Navy Yard where she began more than a month of repairs on the 18th.
Three weeks into her availability, the United States formally entered World War II after the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor on 7 December 1941. Bainbridge completed her repairs near year's end, leaving Boston on 29 December and returning to Argentia on 1 January 1942. Though she resumed duty with TF 4, she made only one more convoy run to Iceland, between 13 January and 5 February, before moving on to other duty. Then, during February, she worked her way south to that new assignment. From Casco Bay, the warship moved to Boston, and then to Newport, R.I. She reached Hampton Roads, Va., on the 18th and stayed a few days before resuming her journey south on the 20th. The destroyer entered her new zone of operations when she passed the Florida Strait on her way to New Orleans, La. She reached that port on 25 February 1942. For the next 12 weeks, Bainbridge escorted local convoys between ports located on the Gulf of Mexico and in the Caribbean Sea.
She made her last port call on that circuit at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, in mid-May and then set out for the Atlantic coast of Florida on 17 May. The warship arrived in Jacksonville, Fla., on the 19th but put to sea again that same day to carry out one final convoy-escort mission to New Orleans. She returned to the Atlantic from that assignment on 25 May and entered Charleston, S.C. on the 28th. Bainbridge then embarked upon nine months of duty escorting coastwise convoys up and down the eastern seaboard of the United States. Initially, the terminal points were Hampton Roads in the north and either Key West or Guantanamo Bay in the south; but, after September 1942, New York became the northern terminus of these voyages.
Bainbridge concluded the last of these north-south missions at New York near the end of January 1943. She then made a brief trip to New London, Conn., before returning to New York for the first two weeks of February. On 15 February, the destroyer headed south to start yet another phase of her varied career. She reached Norfolk on the 16th and spent the rest of the month preparing for her first transatlantic escort mission of the war. On 1 March, the warship stood out of Chesapeake Bay with TF 37 bound for North Africa. The convoy made an expeditious passage and entered Casablanca on 6 March.
Five days later, she headed back to the Western Hemisphere, though not back to the United States. Instead, she shaped a course for one of her old haunts, the Caribbean Sea. Bainbridge arrived at Aruba, off the Venezuelan coast, on 22 March but remained there only overnight. The next day, she set course for San Juan, Puerto Rico, where she underwent 10 days of repairs. After antisubmarine warfare training near St. Thomas and more repairs at San Juan, the destroyer returned to Aruba in mid-April to join the escort of another North Africa-bound convoy. The convoy left Aruba on 17 April and entered Algiers on 2 May. Bainbridge spent five days at Algiers before joining the screen of a return convoy on the 7th. After seeing that group of ships safely back to Aruba on 20 May, she headed for New York on the 21st and arrived there on the 27th.
After repairing at New York and training briefly at New London, Bainbridge sailed from New York on 10 June 1943 in company with MacLeish (DD-220) and Overton to Norfolk, Va., where the trio joined Santee (CVE-29) on the 13th to form Task Group (TG) 21.11. The task group then headed across the Atlantic providing loose cover for convoy UGS-10. After a fairly tranquil voyage, Bainbridge and her fellow escorts reached Casablanca on 3 July. At the conclusion of a very brief availability there, she returned to sea with the Santee task group on the 7th. The unit screened convoy GUS-9 through the eastern Atlantic danger zone and then parted company with it on the 12th to hunt U-boats in an area south of the Azores. During the two-week foray, the task group engaged six U-boats, sinking two of them--U-159 and U-509--and damaging U-373 badly enough to force her return to port. The group then joined another west-bound convoy on the 25th and headed home. On the way, however, Santee's Composite Squadron (VC) 29 claimed a third victim when one of its teams sank U-43 on 30 July. Continuing on, the group entered Norfolk again on at the end of the first week in August.
Following three weeks in port, Bainbridge departed Norfolk again on 26 August once more in Santee's screen along with Greer (DD-145). The three warships steamed to Bermuda arriving there on the 28th. The next day, the task group--joined at Bermuda by Simpson (DD-221)--stood out to rendezvous with a Morocco-bound convoy. Bainbridge and her colleagues saw that convoy safely into Casablanca on 14 September after a voyage free of enemy activity. Sailing again on the 17th, the destroyer helped Santee to shepherd a convoy through the eastern Atlantic danger zone, and then the task group set out on another antisubmarine sweep south of the Azores. This time, success eluded the unit, and it joined up with another westbound convoy on the 22d. On the 26th, Bainbridge's task group left the convoy to pursue a U-boat reported near the Azores. Once again, however, she and her fellow hunters came up empty-handed and headed back to Norfolk, arriving there on 12 October.
Bainbridge spent the next 12 days in repairs at the Norfolk Navy Yard and then got underway in company with MacLeish and Simpson on her next mission, screening Santee to French Morocco. On 13 November, the task group pulled into Casablanca at the end of another fairly routine crossing. The next day, however, she rushed to sea with the Santee task group to rendezvous with Iowa (BB-61) and then provided air cover for that battleship as she steamed through the area carrying President Franklin D. Roosevelt to the conferences at Cairo and Teheran. The task group performed that service on the 17th and then set off for the Bay of Biscay to conduct antisubmarine (ASW) operations. After two weeks without flushing a single target, she and the rest of her group started back across the Atlantic, continuing the fruitless search for U-boats as they went. The warships reached Norfolk on 9 December, whereupon the task group was dissolved.
Bainbridge, however, did not stop at Norfolk. Instead, she and Simpson headed for New York where they arrived on the 10th. Earlier, the two destroyers had been selected to become fast transports but were replaced on the conversion list by Clemson (AVD-4) and George E. Badger (AVD-3), respectively; and the pair soon resumed duty escorting coastwise and West Indian traffic. Bainbridge went to sea again at the end of December 1943, screening Tarazed (AF-13) on two resupply circuits from New York to Bermuda and back to New York by way of Puerto Rico. The warship returned to New York from the last of those missions on 2 February 1944. After several days in port, she set off on a new itinerary in mid-February. Steaming south and then around the Florida peninsula, she entered the Gulf of Mexico and made stops at Gulfport, Miss., and Galveston, Tex., before returning to the Atlantic coast at Norfolk in early March. Bainbridge made another voyage to the gulf coast in March, concluding it at New York on 19 March.
Three days later, she left New York to see Antaeus (AG-67) safely to Hampton Roads. The pair arrived the next day, and Bainbridge spent the following three weeks in port at Norfolk. On 11 April, the destroyer stood out of Chesapeake Bay escorting the newly converted troop transport Storm King (AP-171) to Panama. Five days later, warship and transport parted company at Panama. Storm King entered the locks to continue her journey to the Pacific, and Bainbridge headed back to the east coast, leaving Panama on 18 April and reaching Hampton Roads on the 22d. The destroyer then passed more than a month in port at Norfolk. Early in May, she spent 11 days at the Norfolk Navy Annex having the tubes in her condensers replaced. The repairs ended on 11 May, and the warship was supposed to resume coastal escort missions; but Bainbridge remained idle for another four weeks while workers attended to additional mechanical problems discovered during post-repair trials.
When she did finally return to sea on 12 June, Bainbridge embarked on the last phase of her Navy career. During most of the final year of the war, she busied herself with a new type of escort mission, helping new-construction and recently repaired warships shake themselves down before heading into combat. Thus, when she set out on 12 June with Task Group (TG) 27.2, Bainbridge's assignment was to screen the new aircraft carrier Hancock (CV-19) during her shakedown cruise to the Caribbean Sea. The destroyer kept antisubmarine and plane-guard watch over Hancock and her air group as they exercised in the vicinity of Trinidad and Venezuela until early July. At that time, she steamed north with Hancock to Boston where the task group arrived at the start of the second week on July. Her duties with Hancock over, Bainbridge entered the Boston Navy Yard for a two-week availability.
Late in July, the destroyer resumed escort duty in the Caribbean, meeting the new battleship Wisconsin (BB-64) at Trinidad and screening her as she went through her shakedown paces. This activity continued until early August when the task group returned north to the Delaware capes, where the unit was dissolved. Wisconsin returned to her builders yard for post-shakedown overhaul, and Bainbridge joined Decatur (DD-341) in the voyage north to Casco Bay, Maine, where they conducted exercises for the remainder of August. On 3 September, Bainbridge shaped a course for Staten Island, N.Y., where she picked up the new submarines Dragonet (SS-293) and Sea Cat (SS-399) to escort them to Key West on the first leg of their voyage to the Pacific. Parting company with the submarines at Key West, the destroyer then headed to Trinidad where she spent a few days in mid-September operating with Task Unit (TU) 23.16.3 built around the new large cruiser Alaska (CB-1) which was completing her shakedown cruise. After that mission ended on the 17th, she escorted Alaska north, and the task unit reached Norfolk on 22 September. Bainbridge spent a week in port while Alaska sailed up Chesapeake Bay to visit Annapolis. When the battle cruiser returned south, Bainbridge put to sea briefly on 29 and 30 September to see her safely to the Delaware River.
Following a pause at Hampton roads on 1 and 2 October, the destroyer headed back to the Caribbean where she escorted Savannah (CL-42) during the light cruiser's post-repair refresher training. Bainbridge then saw the cruiser safely back to Hampton Roads on the 12th and then continued north to Boston where she spent a fortnight in repairs. Early in November, she returned south to Norfolk to resume duty. Except for a two-week voyage to Cuban waters and back late in November, Bainbridge spent the rest of 1944 operating locally out of Norfolk.
At the end of January 1945, the warship headed back to the Caribbean coast of South America where she screened the new aircraft carrier Bon Homme Richard (CV-31) during her shakedown cruise. In the course of that mission, Bainbridge sustained significant hull damage on 14 February when a practice torpedo struck her accidentally while she was serving as a target for torpedo planes. That damage was quickly repaired at Trinidad; but, soon after she returned to sea late in February, the destroyer suffered an explosion in her paint locker. This misfortune sent her into port at San Juan, P.R., where she remained through March and most of April. Although she was repaired and was kept on active duty for several more months, the accumulated damage combined with her advanced age and the winding down of the war really signalled the end of her long Navy career. Bainbridge returned north to Norfolk in May, and she visited Casco Bay, Maine, later in the month for two weeks of refresher training.
In June, however, she received orders to report to the Philadelphia Navy Yard for final disposition. On 21 July 1945, Bainbridge was decommissioned at the Philadelphia Navy Yard. Her name was struck form the Naval Vessel Register on 13 August 1945, and she was sold for scrapping to the Boston Metal Salvage Co., of Baltimore, Md., on 30 November 1945. Resold on 31 December 1945, she was ultimately scrapped by the Northern Metal Co. in November 1947.
Bainbridge (DD-246) earned one battle star during World War II.
Raymond A. Mann
14 December 2005