Seaman John McFarland, USN, entered the Navy at Boston, Mass., 24 December 1861 as seaman on Ohio, later transferring to Hartford in the West Gulf Blockading Squadron. Rated captain of the forecastle, he had the station at the wheel in every engagement in which Hartford participated. During the Battle of Mobile Bay 4 and 5 August 1864. McFarland left his sickbed to take up station, keeping the wheel of Admiral Farragut’s flagship throughout the storm of shell and shot. He was commended by his commanding officers for his fortitude and intelligence and was awarded the Medal of Honor for his gallant and meritorious service. The circumstances and date of his death are unknown.
(DD‑237; dp. 1,190; l. 314'5"; b. 31'8"; dr. 9'3"; s. 35 k.; cpl. 122; a. 4 4", 1 3", 12 21" tt.; cl. Clemson)
McFarland (DD‑237) was laid down by the New York Shipbuilding Corp., Camden, 31 July 1918; launched 30 March 1920; sponsored by Miss Louisa Hughes; and commissioned 30 September 1920, Lt. Comdr. Preston B. Haines, in command.
McFarland having served a month with the Atlantic Fleet, departed for European waters 30 November 1920. For the next 2 months she operated in the English Channel, sailing for Gibraltar 31 January 1921. On 9 March she arrived at Spalato for a 4‑month tour with the Adriatic Detachment. In July she continued eastward, and at Constantinople, on the 31st, joined ships of the Turkish Waters Detachment.
Returning to the United States only once (8 July to 22 October 1922), McFarland remained in the Black Sea and eastern Mediterranean area until spring 1923. During that period she performed quasi‑diplomatic and humanitarian roles necessitated by the aftermath of World War I. She cruised regularly to Black Sea and Anatolian ports, distributing American relief supplies to Russian, Greek, and Turkish refugees and providing transportation, mail, and communications facilities.
McFarland returned to New York and on 15 September 1923 joined the Scouting Fleet at Newport. With only two interruptions, she operated along the east coast and in the Caribbean for the next 17 years. The first interruption came with a cruise to Hawaii for the 1925 fleet problem involving an attack on Oahu; the second, a year out of commission, in reserve, at Philadelphia, 1931. On 2 August 1940, McFarland, undergoing conversion, was redesignated AVD‑14, seaplane tender (destroyer). On 5 October she was recommissioned in full and assigned to the Pacific Fleet.
On 7 December 1941, McFarland, operating out of Pearl Harbor, was conducting antisubmarine maneuvers off Maui. Receiving word of the Japanese attack, she patrolled to the southwest, returning to Oahu on the 9th. For the next 7 months she operated from Pearl Harbor, completing several voyages to Palmyra and Johnston Islands. On these missions she carried marine reinforcements to the islands and returned with civilian personnel.
McFarland sailed for the South Pacific 2 June 1942. She arrived Noumea on the 16th and within a month she made her first contact with an enemy submarine in Bulari Pass, 15 July. In August, as the Guadalcanal offensive neared, she assumed tender duties in the Espiritu Santo-Santa Cruz area. Assigned to keeping the supply lines open, McFarland carried supplies to the embattled island and evacuated wounded marine personnel while her planes performed scouting and flghting missions.
On 16 October, McFarland was unloading cargo and embarking wounded personnel in Lunga Roads when she was attacked by nine dive bombers. While the first seven scored no hits, the eighth hit a gasoline barge in tow alongside the tender’s starboard quarter. The blazing barge was cut loose as the ninth plane made its run. At least one bomb hit McFarland’s stern, knocking out her rudder and steering engine. Her crew managed to splash one plane, but lost eleven of its members in the fight; five killed, six missing, with an additional 12 critically wounded. For this action the ship was awarded the Presidential Unit Citation.
McFarland was towed to Florida Island, where she moored to the beach in the upper channel (later called McFarland Channel) of Tulagi harbor. She completed makeshift repairs to her hull by 26 November and sailed to Espiritu Santo, where further repairs increased her seaworthiness. On 17 December she began to make her way back to Pearl Harbor, arriving on the 29th.
Repairs completed by 17 April 1943, McFarland sailed for the west coast. Redesignated DD‑237 on 1 December 1943 and homeported at San Diego, for the remainder of the war, she operated with carriers as they conducted training exercises and pilot qualification landings. On 30 September 1945 she sailed for the east coast. Decommissioned at Philadelphia 8 November 1945, she was struck from the Navy Register 19 December and her hulk was sold for scrap, 29 October 1946, to the North American Smelting Co., Philadelphia, Pa.
McFarland received two battle stars for World War II service.