Smith Thompson was born in Stanford, N.Y., in 1768. He was graduated from Princeton College in 1788 and served as Associate Justice of the New York Supreme Court from 1802 to 1814 and as Chief Justice from 1814 to 1818. He was appointed Secretary of the Navy by President Monroe in 1818 and was one of the first men to suggest and work for a naval academy. He was appointed Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court in 1823 and retained that position until his death in 1843.
(DD-212: dp. 1,215; l. 314'4½ "; b. 31'8½ "; dr. 9'4"; s. 35 k.; cpl. 121; a. 4 4", 1 3", 12 21" tt; cl. Clemson)
Smith Thompson (DD-212) was laid down on 24 March by William Cramp and Sons, Philadelphia, Pa.; launched on 14 July 1919; sponsored by Mrs. Kate E. Lloyd, granddaughter of Secretary Thompson; and commissioned on 10 December 1919, Comdr. B.G. Barthalow in command.
After shakedown along the east coast, Smith Thompson sailed on 8 February 1920 from Philadelphia for the Mediterranean, arriving at Constantinople on 25 February. Attached to the United States Naval Detachment in Turkish Waters, Rear Admiral Mark L. Bristol commanding, the destroyer operated in the eastern Mediterranean and the Black Sea for over a year, visiting ports in Turkey, Russia, Rumania, Bulgaria, Syria, Greece, and Egypt. Due to warfare in Turkey and Russia, Admiral Bristol's ships were frequently assigned unusual tasks, including maintenance of radio, mail, and passenger service; carrying State Department representatives and officials of recognized philanthropic societies to various ports; and evacuation of Americans, non-combatants, and the sick and wounded from ports threatened by warfare, particularly in southern Russia. Rear Admiral N.A. McCully, on a mission to south Russia as a special agent of the State Department for observation purposes, received assistance from the naval forces; and, on several occasions, Smith Thompson acted as his flagship.
On 2 May 1921, Smith Thompson sailed from Constantinople with her division for the Asiatic Station, arriving at Cavite, P.I., on 29 June. For the next four years, she cruised among the Philippine Islands, along the coast of China, and in Japanese waters, protecting American lives and property and carrying out peacetime training.
In early September 1923, when he learned that Tokyo and Yokohama had been nearly destroyed by earthquake, tidal wave, and fire on 30 and 31 August, Admiral E.A. Anderson, Commander in Chief of the Asiatic Fleet, immediately sent Smith Thompson and her destroyer division with medical supplies to render assistance. Smith Thompson arrived on 5 September and acted as radio relay ship at Yokohama and station ship at Tokyo until departing on 21 September. The American destroyers were the first foreign vessels to arrive at Yokohama and earned the gratitude of the Japanese government. The following year, Smith Thompson carried out another special mission, providingsupport off the China Coast between 7 and 10 June for the flight of four United States Army aircraft around the world. Smith Thompson returned to the east coast of the United States in 1925 via San Diego and the Panama Canal, arriving in Hampton Roads on 16 July.
After overhaul, Smith Thompson joined Destroyer Squadrons, Scouting Fleet, and cruised along the east coast and in the Caribbean on training exercises. During September and October 1926 and January 1927, the destroyer was temporary attached to the U.S. Special Service Squadron for duty on the coast of Nicaragua, observing conditions in that country during a revolutionary outbreak, protecting American interests, and furnishing transportation to Naval and Marine Corps personnel.
Between June 1927 and January 1928, Smith Thompson cruised in the Mediterranean and the Adriatic, and then proceeded to the west coast of the United States to join Destroyer Squadrons, Battle Fleet. On 1 August 1929, she sailed from Bremerton, Wash., with her division for a second tour with the Asiatic Fleet. Arriving at Chefop. China, on 2 September 1929. Smith Thompson participated in exercises with the fleet in Chinese and Philippine waters, with overhaul periods at the Cavite Navy Yard, until 1936. Due to civil war and bandit activity, a division of destroyers had to be maintained in Chinese waters in addition to the regular gunboats patrols; and Smith Thompson was, on several occasions, assigned temporary duty with the Yangtze River Patrol and the South China Patrol. On 1 February 1932, she, with other units of the Asiatic Fleet, was rushed to Shanghai to protect the international settlement there after the Japanese launched an air and sea attack on the Chinese portion of the city. On this occasion, Smith Thompson remained on special patrols along the China Coast until 28 May.
On 14 April 1936, Smith Thompson, while en route from Manila to Shanghai, was rammed amidships by Whipple (DD-217). There was no loss of life, but Smith Thompson was seriously damaged and had to be towed back to the Philippines by Barker (DD-213), arriving in Subic Bay on 17 April. Inspection showed the ship not worth repair, and Smith Thompson was decommissioned at Olongapo on 15 May, struck from the Navy list on 19 May, and sunk at sea off Subic Bay on 25 July 1936.