Born on 1 November 1747 in Marblehead, Mass., Samuel Tucker began his naval career in the spring of 1760 as a cabin boy in the Massachusetts Bay Colony warship, King George. He subsequently sought his fortune in the merchant service, rising to command of a ship in July 1774. Tucker was in England at the outbreak of the American War for Independence, but returned to Massachusetts in the autumn of 1775.
Upon his return to the colonies, Tucker was selected by General George Washington to command a small flotilla of armed schooners which he had purchased and fitted out to prey on the shipping which was bringing supplies from England to America to support British troops in the colonies. Tucker also served as commanding officer of the schooner Franklin.
In that schooner and later in schooner Hancock, Tucker swept the seas around Boston and off the Massachusetts coast, taking many prizes in the year 1776. His first, taken jointly with the schooner Lee, came on 29 February, when the two Continental ships cornered the 300-ton Henry and Esther, bound for Boston laden with wood from Halifax, Nova Scotia.
In April 1776, in Hancock, Tucker sighted two supply brigs making for Boston. Standing in to the harbor, very near to the protecting cannon of British warships anchored in the roadstead, he soon captured brigs Jane and William, out of Ireland. Tucker brazenly sailed up and took both from beneath the very noses of the British Navy, escaping with the two ships and their valuable cargoes of foodstuffs and other items needed by the Continental Army.
Because of his distinguished record, Tucker was given command of the new Continental Navy frigate Boston in March 1777. On 21 May, Boston and sister frigate Hancock set sail from Boston to raid the King's commerce on the high seas. Cruising in the North Atlantic, eight days out of their home port, the raiders captured a small brig laden with cordage and duck.
On 30 May, they sighted a convoy of troopships escorted by the 64-gun HMS Somerset, which soon set course to engage Manley's Hancock. Sizing up the situation in his experienced mariner's eye, Tucker bent on sail to go after the transports to wreak havoc among them. At that point, Somerset's commanding officer decided not to engage Hancock, since his primary mission was to protect the transports. Thus, Hancock escaped nearly certain devastation at the hands of the 64-gun Britisher. Tucker's timely action and good shiphandling were undoubtedly major factors in the Briton's decision.
On 7 June, Boston and Hancock engaged HMS Fox and made her a prize after a heated battle. One month later, on 7 and 8 July 1777, HMS Flora, HMS Rainbow, and HMS Victor attacked the three Continental ships and took Hancock and Fox. Only Boston escaped.
For the remainder of 1777, Tucker, in Boston, carried out commerce-raiding forays in the North Atlantic and off the northeast coasts before being selected for a special mission. On 13 February 1778, Capt. Samuel Tucker was rowed ashore to Braintree, Mass., where he soon sat down for a hasty and early meal with the family of John Adams. Soon, Adams, the newly appointed minister to France, and his son, John Quincy, were taken out to Boston and lodged on board as preparations for heading out to sea were completed.
Encountering heavy seas and wind halfway across the Atlantic, Boston nearly dismasted in a gale. On another occasion, three British warships gave chase to the solitary Continental frigate and its distinguished passenger. The unpleasant surroundings of a dank and dismal English prison were not relished by anyone, least of all Adams, who would have been considered a traitor to the crown. Avoiding contact with British ships as much as possible, Tucker was finally forced to fight.
Encountering a British privateer, Tucker maneuvered Boston to cross the enemy's "T." With devastating effect, Boston's guns thundered and sent shot down the length of the Britisher, and soon, the Briton struck her colors. Arriving safely at Bordeaux on 1 April, Adams would have stories to tell in future days about his eventful cruise with Samuel Tucker in Boston.
Cruising in European waters from the spring of 1778 until the fall of that year, Tucker took four more prizes before returning to Portsmouth, N.H., on 15 October. In 1779, two cruises in the North Atlantic netted nine prizes for Tucker and his mariners before orders sent Boston to Charleston, S.C., to help defend that port against the British onslaught.
On 11 May 1780, Charleston surrendered, after a siege, and the warships in harbor were captured, along with most of their officers and men. Tucker was among the prisoners but would not remain so for long, as he received parole on 20 May and was exchanged for British Capt. Wardlaw, whom Tucker had captured when Boston took HMS Thorn in September 1779.
On 11 January 1781, Tucker assumed command of Thorn, now a privateer. After taking seven prizes, he was again captured in an engagement with HMS Hind off the mouth of the St. Lawrence River.
He and his crew were treated kindly and taken to Prince Edward Island. One day, having had permission to go to Halifax, Tucker escaped and made his way to Boston. In an era where chivalry in war was still very much alive, Tucker wrote a letter of apology to the British garrison commander for his escape. At his own request, Tucker was paroled.
When the war had ended and independence had been secured for the fledgling United States, Tucker received hearty thanks from Congress. During the years following the establishment of peace, the old mariner from Marblehead sailed packets from America to Bremen, Germany, until he retired to farming, in Maine, in 1792.
Yet, when the young United States once again went to war with Britain in the War of 1812, Samuel Tucker returned to active service, commanding a schooner which protected the coast of Maine from British privateers. In 1813, he captured the British privateer Crown in a short, sharp engagement, putting an end to the harassment of Maine coastal trade which had been posed by the Briton.
Changing his residence to Massachusetts, Tucker settled down once again to a life of farming. In 1823, he was awarded a small pension, retroactive to 1818.
After holding positions of public trust in his home state of Massachusetts and having lived a life of adventure on the high seas, Samuel Tucker died at the age of 86 in Bremen, Maine, on 10 March 1833.
(DD-374: dp. 1,500; 1. 341'4"; b. 34'8"; dr. 17'; s. 36.5 k.; cpl. 158; a. 5 5", 12 21" tt; cl. Mahan)
The second Tucker (DD-374) was laid down at Portsmouth, Va., on 15 August 1934 by the Norfolk Navy Yard; launched on 26 February 1936; sponsored by Mrs. Leonard Thorner; and commissioned on 23 July 1936, Lt. Comdr. George T. Howard in command.
Following shakedown training, Tucker joined the destroyer forces attached to the United States Battle Fleet and was based at San Diego, Calif. As part of Destroyer Squadron 3, Destroyer Division 6, she operated with the Battle Force along the west coast and in the Hawaiian Islands. In February 1939, she took part in Fleet Problem XX, the naval exercise in the Caribbean personally observed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt from Houston (CA-30).
As the international situation in the Pacific worsened, President Roosevelt ordered the Fleet to remain in Hawaiian waters after the conclusion of exercises in the spring of 1940. Tucker then operated between the west coast and Hawaii through the end of the year. On 14 February 1941, she arrived at Pearl Harbor, from San Diego, and then proceeded to New Zealand, arriving at Auckland on 17 March to "show the flag" in that area of the world.
Returning to Pearl Harbor from the South Pacific, she took part in routine exercises at sea before returning to her home port of San Diego, Calif., on 19 September. Getting underway again after a short stay, Tucker steamed to Hawaii as part of Task Force 19 and began operations anew in the Hawaiian Islands in November. After one month of maneuvers in the Hawaiian operating area, she returned to Pearl Harbor for a tender overhaul.
On 7 December 1941, Tucker lay peacefully moored at berth X-8, East Loch, Pearl Harbor, in the center of a nest of five destroyers and tender Whitney (AD-4); to port of Tucker lay Selfridge (DD-375) and Case (DD-370); to her starboard were Reid (DD-365) and Conyngham (DD-371), with Whitney outboard of Conyngham. Suddenly the drone of airplane engines and the roar of exploding bombs and torpedoes shattered the Sunday morning calm; Japanese planes swept over the harbor and wheeled above like hawks.
On board Tucker, GM2c W. E. Bowe observed the unfolding attack and promptly manned a machine gun on the ship's after superstructure, commencing fire even before the general quarters alarm sounded. Within two minutes, the after 5-inch guns came into action, joining the concentrated gunfire emanating from the nest of ships in which Tucker lay. This veritable storm of shells and bullets produced hits on two enemy aircraft, both of which spun into the lush green hills and exploded.
As the damaged fleet licked its wounds and rolled up its sleeves to begin the war, Tucker patrolled off Pearl Harbor before spending the succeeding five months escorting convoys between the west coast and Hawaii. Tucker then received new orders sending her to the South Pacific.
With the reinforcement of United States island bases in the Pacific, Tucker escorted Wright (AV-1) to Tutuila, American Samoa, as part of the drive to fortify these outposts. The destroyer then escorted her charge to Suva, in the Fiji Islands, and thence to Noumea, New Caledonia. Steaming then for Austrialia, she arrived at Sydney on 27 April. After taking on fuel the following day, she visited Melbourne, Perth, and Freman tie before heading back to Sydney.
In company with Wright, Tucker returned to Suva, arriving there on 3 June 1942, the day before the commencement of the climactic Battle of Midway. For the remainder of June and into the first week of July, Tucker operated out of Suva; then relieved Boise (CL-47) on 10 July on convoy escort duties. On 30 July, the destroyer arrived at Auckland and, the following day, steamed for the Fiji Islands.
At Suva, she received orders to escort the SS Nira Luckenbach to Espiritu Santo; and, on 1 August, the two ships departed by way of a route north of Efate Island and west of the Malekula Islands. Threading their way through the Bruat channel, both ships then set courses to enter the Segond Channel for the final leg of their voyage to Espiritu Santo. At 2145, Tucker struck a mine which exploded and broke the destroyer's back. She slowed to a halt, mortally stricken, and began folding up like a jacknife.
The explosion instantly killed three men. Nira Luckenbach quickly sent boats to aid in rescuing the destroyermen as they abandoned their sinking ship.
By the next morning, YP-346 had arrived on the scene and attempted to tow the stricken destroyer into shallower water to facilitate salvage operations. Breese (DMS-18) also arrived and stood by as YP-346 valiantly struggled to beach the foundering Tucker. However, the efforts soon came to naught; and Tucker jack-knifed and sank in 10 fathoms at 0445 on 4 August 1942.
The minefield into which she had steamed had been laid by United States forces only the day before, on 2 August, and its existence had not yet been radioed to Tucker and Nira Luckenbach. Thus, Tucker's commanding officer and her crew had no idea of the dangerous waters into which they had steamed so unknowingly. The destroyer's only casualties were three men killed in the initial explosion and three more listed as "missing."
Her name was struck from the Navy list on 2 December 1944.
Tucker received one battle star for her World War II service.
USS Tucker (DD-374) at Mare Island, 11 March 1942. Like other destroyers of her age, she has had some of her tophamper cut down and antiaircraft guns installed.