Esek Hopkins, Commander in Chief of the Fleet, was born 26 April 1718, in what is now Scituate, R.I. Prior to the Revolutionary War he made voyages to nearly every quarter of the globe, commanded a privateer in the French and Indian War, and served as a deputy to the Rhode Island General Assembly. Appointed a brigadier general to command all the colony's military forces 4 October 1775, he immediately began to strengthen Rhode Island's defenses. A few months later, 22 December 1775, he was appointed Commander in Chief of the Fleet authorized by the Continental Congress to protect American commerce.
Hopkins took command of eight small merchant ships that had been hastily altered as men of war at Philadelphia, then sailed south 17 February 1776 for the first U.S. Fleet operation that took the fleet to Nassau in the Bahamas. The amphibious assault on the British colony there 3 March 1776 was also the first U.S. Amphibious Assault. Marines and sailors landed in "a bold stroke, worthy of an older and better trained service," capturing munitions desperately needed in the War of Independence. The little fleet returned to New London 8 April 1776, having also made prizes of two British merchantmen and a six-gun schooner. John Hancock, President of the Continental Congress, wrote Hopkins: "I beg leave to congratulate you on the success of your Expedition. Your account of the spirit and bravery shown by the men affords them [Congress] the greatest satisfaction . . ."
Hopkins' little fleet was blockaded in Narragansett Bay by the superior British seapower, but he never wavered in his loyalty to the cause of American independence. He continued to serve the Rhode Island General Assembly through 1786, then retired to his farm where he died 26 February 1802.
(DD-249: dp. 1,190; l. 314'5"; b. 31'8" ; dr. 9'3" ; s. 35 k.; cpl. 101; a. 4 4", 1 3", 12 21" tt.; cl. Clemson)
The third Hopkins (DD-249) was launched 26 June 1920 by the New York Shipbuilding Corp., Camden, N.J.; sponsored by Miss Sarah Babbitt, a descendant of Esek Hopkins; and commissioned 21 March 1921 at Philadelphia, Lt. Comdr. C. A. Bailey commanding.
After shakedown Hopkins arrived at Newport, R.I., 31 May for battle practice training during the summer. In November, she was assigned to Destroyer Squadron 15 for tactical training with the Atlantic Fleet along the East Coast.
Hopkins sailed from Hampton Roads 2 October 1922, and reached Constantinople 22 October for duty in Turkish waters. She protected American interests and cooperated with the Relief Mission in the Near East, ranging to Beirut, Jaffa, and Smyrna. She departed Constantinople 18 May 1923 for New York, arriving 12 June. For the next 7 years Hopkins operated out of New England ports in the summer, Charleston in the winter, and the Caribbean Sea in the spring. During the spring of 1930, Hopkins participated in force battle practice with aircraft, attesting to the growing importance of naval aviation.
On 3 February 1932 Hopkins was one of the two naval ships rendering medical aid to earthquake victims at Santiago, Cuba. She departed 5 February to join the Pacific Fleet at San Diego. She had escort duty for President Roosevelt's cruise to Canada in July 1936, then resumed training along the Western Seaboard.
Hopkins returned to Norfolk in April 1939, and performed Neutrality Patrol from September 1939 until sailing for San Diego 37 May, thence to Pearl Harbor. She converted to a high-speed minesweeper (DMS-13) in the Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard.
When the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, Hopkins was at Johnston Island for war maneuvers, but immediately headed back to Hawaii. She continued patrol of the Hawaiian Sea Frontier, with a short break for overhaul in the States, until late summer 1942, when she joined the invasion fleet bound for Guadalcanal. As America's first offensive effort of the Pacific war began 7 August, Hopkins swept the transport area and covered the landings on Tulagi. In a heavy enemy air attack 9 August, she shot down two enemy planes. During the following months, Hopkins escorted transports, sw§pt mines, and carried badly-needed supplies to Guadalcanal.
Hopkins served as flagship for Adm. R. K. "Kelly" Turner as the Russell Islands were invaded 21 February 1943. During the action, she downed her third enemy plane. Remaining in the southwest Pacific, she joined in the initial invasion of Rice Anchorage, New Georgia, 4 July, and of Bougainville 1 November. Convoy escort, antisubmarine patrol, and sweeping duties kept the four-stacker busy until the Solomons were secured.
As the Navy moved farther across the Pacific in the long island-hopping campaign, Hopkins arrived off Saipan 13 June 1944 to sweep the invasion approaches. She provided screen and fire support for the amphibious landings of 15 June 1944. 'She picked up 62 prisoners from sunken Japanese ships as well as rescuing a downed fighter pilot and a seaplane crew. A brief rest at Eniwetok was followed by a role in the capture of Guam. Hopkins reached that important Marianas island 14 July to participate in the preinvasion sweeping and bombardment. She also gave fire-support to the landings 16 July.
Following overhaul at Pearl Harbor, Hopkins arrived in Leyte Gulf 27 December 1944 to prepare for the Linga-yen landings. The minesweepers sailed 2 January 1945 to sweep Lingayen Gulf under unceasing attack from Japanese dive bombers and kamikazes. When her sister ship Palmer was hit and sank in 13 minutes the morning of 7 January, Hopkins rescued 94 survivors.
Hopkins departed the Philippines 15 January 1945 for a brief rest at Eniwetok, then swept the transport areas and channels off Iwo Jima to prepare for invasion 19 February 1945. She remained on patrol off Iwo Jima, emerging from heavy air and shore fire unscathed. Departing Iwo Jima 6 March, Hopkins next headed into battle off Okinawa, the "last stepping stone to Japan." While fighting off the constant raids and suicide attacks, "Lucky 13" shot down several Japanese planes. On 4 May 1945 she was struck a glancing blow by a flaming kamikaze'just before it plunged into the sea.
On 7 June 1945 Hopkins steamed for overhaul at Leyte, Philippine Islands where she remained until cessation of hostilities. Hopkins then rendezvoused with units of the Third Fleet headed for Tokyo Bay. After two days of sweeping the entrances to Tokyo Bay, Hopkins anchored in sight of Mount Fujiyama 30 August 1945. The Japanese may have given up, but the elements had not. Hopkins had to ride out two typhoons with winds raging to 125 knots before her departure from Tokyo Bay 10 October 1945 for the Eastern Seaboard of the United States.
Hopkins arrived in Norfolk 28 November and decommissioned there 21 December 1945. She was sold for scrapping 8 November 1946 to Heglo Sales Corp., Hills-dale, N.J.
Hopkins was awarded two Navy Unit Commendations for heroism off Guadalcanal and in Lingayen Gulf. She also received 10 battle stars for service in World War II.