Burns (Destroyer No. 171)
Otway Burns, born at Queen's Creek, near Swansboro, N.C., in 1775, developed a keen ability at navigation while sailing the sounds, rivers, inlets, and creeks near his home. When the War of 1812 came, he secured letters of marque and reprisal for the schooner Snap Dragon. He and his privateer made three cruises during which he had several encounters with British warships and captured a number of valuable prizes. Following the war, Burns resumed shiphuilding activities at Beaufort, N.C. He also spent 13 years in the North Carolina general assembly. In 1835, President Andrew Jackson appointed Burns to be keeper of the Brant Island Shoal Light. He retained that position until his death on 25 August 1850.
The first Burns (Destroyer No. 171) was laid down on 15 April 1918 at San Francisco, Calif., by the Union Iron Works; launched on 4 July 1918; sponsored by Miss Alice H. Palmer; and commissioned at Mare Island, Calif., on 7 August 1919, Comdr. William H. Lee in command.
Assigned to the Destroyer Force, Pacific, until March 1920, Burns operated along the west coast briefly. By October 1919, however, she was at San Diego in reduced commission. By March 1920, the destroyer was fully active again serving the Commander, Air Force, as a tender to the NC Seaplane Squadron. On 15 March 1921, Burns was reclassified a light minelayer and was redesignated DM-11. On 5 May, she was reassigned to the Mine Force, Pacific. On 11 July, while she was still undergoing conversion to a light minelayer at the Mare Island Navy Yard, the warship received notification that her home yard was changed to the Naval Station, Pearl Harbor. Soon underway for that destination, she completed her conversion at that location. For the remainder of Burns' active career, the Hawaiian Islands constituted her primary zone of operations.
The light minelayer, however, did leave the islands periodically for temporary duty. She participated in the annual fleet concentrations held near the Panama Canal and other maneuvers. In 1925, she steamed to the southwestern Pacific with the bulk of the Fleet for visits to Australia and New Zealand. The following three summers saw her on cruises for the purpose of training naval reservists. When not away from Hawaii on such special duty, Burns conducted mine warfare training and gunnery exercises and served as a high-speed practice target for Pacific Fleet submarines. In November 1929, she steamed to San Diego, arriving there on the 26th. On 2 June 1930, the warship was placed out of commission. On the 11th, Burns was towed to the Mare Island Navy Yard where she served as a barracks ship. Her name was struck from the Navy list on 18 November 1930. She was scrapped in accordance with the terms of the London Treaty for the Limitation of Naval Arms, and her materials sold on 22 April 1932.
Raymond A. Mann
21 November 2005