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Breck (Destroyer No. 283)


(Destroyer No. 283: dp. 1,215 (n.); l. 314’4½”; b. 30’11½” (wl.); dr. 9’9 ¾” (f.); s. 35.0 k.; cpl. 122; a. 4 4”, 1 3”, 12 21” tt.; cl. Clemson)



Joseph Berry Breck—born in Maine in 1830— was appointed acting ensign on 27 February 1863. On 24 April 1863, Acting Ens. Breck placed the screw steamer Niphon in commission and took command of her. His ship was assigned to the North Atlantic Blockading Squadron and, initially, was stationed off Fort Fisher, N.C.. However, he and his ship operated off New Inlet for most of the remainder of the Civil War. Breck participated in a number of operations ashore, the most important of which was the destruction of the salt works at Masonboro Sound, N.C., on 27 August 1864. He also volunteered to participate in the operation to destroy the powerful Confederate ram Albemarle; the seniority of Lt. William B. Cushing, however, secured for that officer the undying fame that accompanied that successful exploit that might have been Breck’s.

He also joined in the capture of six of the largest blockade runners taken during the war. Probably the most important of those was the steamer Cornubia, taken on 8 November 1863. Her papers exposed the scheme whereby the Confederacy had secretly acquired ships in England. Eventually attaining the rank of lieutenant commander, Breck served until November of 1864 when a medical board invalided him out of the service. Seeking a climate conducive to his recovery, he moved to San Francisco, Calif., where he died on 26 July 1865.

Breck (Destroyer No. 283) was laid down on 8 May 1919 at Squantum, Mass., by the Bethlehem Shipbuilding Corp.; launched on 9 September 1919; sponsored by Mrs. Ellen Breck MacNee; and commissioned on 1 December 1919, Lt. Comdr. Clifford E. Van Hook in command.

Breck was initially assigned to Destroyer Squadron 1, Atlantic Fleet, and spent about six months operating in the West Indies. In mid-July 1920, the destroyer moved to Newport, R.I., where she was semi-active training reservists along the Atlantic seaboard. In June 1921, the warship rejoined the active fleet and began the usual drills and exercises along the east coast. She also spent some of her time helping to calibrate coastal radio compass stations. In June of 1922, Breck became a unit of Squadron 9, Scouting Fleet, with which she participated in the annual fleet exercise in the West Indies and other normal fleet and squadron operations. The destroyer was reassigned to Destroyer Division 25 in August 1925, and her base was changed from Boston to Norfolk.

In June 1926, Destroyer Division 25 crossed the Atlantic Ocean for a year of duty with United States naval forces operating in European waters. She spent most of her time making goodwill visits to ports throughout the Mediterranean Sea. Just before beginning the voyage back home, however, the warship made visits to Rotterdam in the Netherlands, Portland and Plymouth in England, and Dublin in Ireland. She returned to the United States in June 1927 and entered the New York Navy Yard for repairs. Following those repairs, Breck began operating out of Newport again. Once more, she helped to train naval reservists, participated in gunnery drills, and joined in fleet maneuvers.

That employment lasted a little more than two years. Near the end of September 1929, the destroyer joined Squadron 9 at Philadelphia and remained there until decommissioned on 1 May 1930. Her name was struck from the Navy list on 22 October 1930, and she was sold to the Boston Iron & Metal Co., of Baltimore, Md., on 17 January 1931. She was scrapped in accordance with the London Treaty for the Limitation of Naval Armament.

Raymond A. Mann
12 December 2005

Published: Wed Mar 24 11:39:44 EDT 2021