Warranted a midshipman on 10 November 1799, William Burrows served in the West Indies in Portsmouth during the Quasi War with France and remained in that man of war when she sailed to Europe in 1800 to bring back the envoys of the United States who had negotiated the treaty ending that conflict. He was in charge of the frigate United States in 1801 and 1802 while that warship was laid up in the Washington Navy Yard. During American wars with the Barbary pirates, he saw Mediterranean service in Constitution, Vixen, Siren, and Essex between 1801 and 1807 and received his commission as a lieutenant on 19 March of the latter year.
At sea in command of Enterprise when war with England was declared in 1812, Burrows cruised along the east coast of the United States in that brig during the first year of the conflict. On 5 September 1813, Enterprise's lookouts sighted the Royal Navy brig Boxer, and the American warship gave chase. When she had drawn within range of her opponent, Enterprise opened fire, starting a fierce engagement in which both Burrows and the captain of the British warship were killed before Boxer surrendered.
(Destroyer No. 29: dp. 742 (n.); l. 293'10"; b. 26'1½" (wl.); dr. 9'5" (aft); s. 30.67 k. (tl.); cpl. 86; a. 5 3", 6 18" tt.; cl. Paulding)
The second Burrows (Destroyer No. 29) was laid down on 19 June 1909 at Camden, N.J., by the New York Shipbuilding Co.; launched on 23 June 1910; sponsored by Miss Lorna Dorothea Burrows; and commissioned on 21 February 1911 at the Philadelphia Navy Yard, Lt. Julius F. Hellweg in command.
After commissioning, Burrows joined the Atlantic Fleet Torpedo Flotilla. For the next five years, she operated along the east coast and in Cuban waters conducting regularly scheduled rounds of tactical maneuvers, war games, torpedo drills, and gunnery exercises. By the beginning of 1916, the destroyer patrolled the Staten Island-Long Island area of New York on neutrality duty.
On 6 April 1917, the United States entered World War I on the side of the Allied and Associated Powers. The following day, Burrows reported to the Commander, Squadron 2, Patrol Force, to search for a German raider supposedly operating off Nantucket. After several days of fruitless searching, the warship headed via Hampton Roads, Va., to Key West, Fla. She arrived in Key West on 25 April and began patrolling the Florida Strait against the remote threats of German U-boats and surface raiders. On 1 May, however, the destroyer set course for her home yard at Philadelphia, Pa.
Burrows spent a month, 4 May to 3 June, in the Philadelphia Navy Yard for a machinery overhaul. Following that, the warship made visits to the navy yards at New York and Boston. On 14 June, the destroyer put to sea from New York with a task group bound for Europe. On the 28th, she anchored in St. Nazaire, France. Soon after her arrival in Europe, Burrows was assigned to the British Western Approaches command based at Queenstown (now known as Cobh) in southwestern Ireland. For about a year, the destroyer operated from that base hunting German submarines and escorting convoys on the last leg of their voyages to Europe. Though she saw some service in the English Channel, the Irish Sea and the Atlantic approaches to the British Isles constituted her primary theater of operations. On 20 July 1917, Burrows made a fruitless search for the U-boat that sank the British ship SS Nevisbrook and then rescued Nevisbrook's survivors. On 20 August while on patrol off Kinsale, she dropped a single depth charge in the vicinity of a large oil slick--results unknown.
On 19 January 1918, an oil fire broke out in the after fireroom as a result of a broken oil line. With the assistance of several other destroyers anchored nearby, she seemed to put out the fire quickly, but it erupted again later. Additional fire and rescue parties from a tender and two tugs were necessary, and the fire was only extinguished when everything was sealed off depriving the fire of its oxygen. Burrows suffered two deaths during the fire--two watertenders on duty in the after fireroom when the fire broke out. Both had made futile attempts to reach the starboard side fire extinguisher.
With the damage soon repaired, Burrows resumed her patrols by the end of the month. On 5 February, she depth-charged another oil slick--again with no apparent result. On 23 February when the steamer SS Birchleaf was torpedoed about 8 miles northwest of the Skerry Islands, Burrows headed for the scene and conducted a search for the U-boat. She made a depth-charge attack on a disturbance in the water that appeared to be caused by a submerging submarine but again obtained no positive results. Three days later, she attacked in the vicinity of another oil slick. A quantity of heavy oil came to the surface but nothing more. Her next contact came on the afternoon of 16 March. While patrolling an area in the Irish Sea, she spotted a periscope on her port quarter. It submerged too quickly for her guns to bear, but Burrows dropped four depth charges in the area. Results again proved negative.
On 19 May 1918, the destroyer made a submarine contact that resulted in a "probably damaged" tally for her score. At about 1245 on the morning of the 19th, a torpedo crossed her bow from port to starboard about 20 feet ahead. Burrows went hard aport and began the search. Results remained negative until about 0215 when lookouts spotted a submarine conning tower 1,500 yards away. Unfortunately, the U boat saw her at the same instant and submerged. Burrows went full speed ahead and dropped depth charges, but found no traces of the enemy.
That afternoon, she saw her convoy safely into Liverpool, England, and returned to sea. At about 1630, she intercepted a call from Patterson (Destroyer No. 36) to Allen (Destroyer No. 66) asking for help in attacking a German U-boat that was apparently damaged. Burrows lit off all boilers and raced to the scene. Three hours later, she joined up with Patterson, Allen, Beale (Destroyer No. 40), and two British destroyers some 10 miles west of Bardsey, an island off the Welsh coast. The five warships searched for about an hour before dropping depth charges on a suspected contact. Oil bubbles started coming to the surface over a large area, suggesting damage to an enemy U-boat. However, further confirmation was not forthcoming.
Early the following morning while still patrolling for the U boat off Bardsey, Burrows and HMS P 62 collided. The destroyer took on four feet of water in her number 1 fireroom and suffered fires in the same location. At about 0140, she began to limp toward Liverpool at 7 knots. She arrived at her destination around 1410 that afternoon. After repairs, the destroyer resumed duty out of Queenstown.
On 11 June, Burrows received orders to quit her patrol station and head for new duty at Brest, France. For the remainder of World War I, the destroyer operated out of Brest. Her duties remained the same as they had been at Queenstown--searching for submarines, escorting convoys on the last leg of their voyages to Europe, and rescuing survivors of torpedoed ships. Burrows made many attacks on both known and suspected submarine contacts but achieved no positive results.
She did, however, rescue a number of survivors from torpedoed vessels. The most famous of these came very early in the morning of 16 August just after Montanan and West Bridge (Id. No. 2888) suffered torpedo hits from U-90 and U-107, respectively. Burrows immediately moved out in answer to Montanan's distress call. Since Noma (SP-131) had already picked up the survivors from Montanan, Burrows headed for the boats from West Bridge and took her survivors on board. The destroyer stood by West Bridge throughout the morning of the 16th while officers from both ships attempted to determine whether or not the stricken ship could be saved. At about 1235 that afternoon, Burrows turned salvage efforts over to a group of tugs and headed for Brest with the survivors. West Bridge was later towed into Brest with only one percent bouyancy remaining. Montanan, however, sank.
Burrows continued to serve at Brest after the armistice on 11 November 1918. She participated in the reception ceremonies for President Woodrow Wilson when he arrived at Brest in George Washington (Id. No. 3018) on 13 December 1918. Soon thereafter, however, the destroyer was on her way back to the United States. The warship arrived back in Philadelphia, Pa., on 2 January 1919. After service along the east coast, Burrows was placed out of commission at the Philadelphia Navy Yard on 12 December 1919.
She remained in reserve at Philadelphia until 7 June 1924 at which time she was transferred to the Coast Guard. She was commissioned in the Coast Guard at Philadelphia on 30 June 1925. Assigned to duty with the so-called "Rum Patrol,” Burrows spent the next six years helping to stem liquor smuggling along the east coast during the latter stages of Prohibition. She performed the bulk of her Coast Guard service in New England waters operating from the base at New London, Conn. On 1 December 1930, the destroyer arrived back at Philadelphia to prepare for her second and final deactivation. The Coast Guard placed Burrows out of commission on 14 February 1931 and returned her to the Navy on 2 May 1931. She remained with the reserve fleet at Philadelphia until 1934. Her name was struck from the Navy list on 5 July 1934, and she was sold for scrapping on 22 August 1934 in accordance with the terms of the 1930 London Treaty for the Limitation and Reduction of Naval Armaments.
Raymond A. Mann
21 November 2005