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Conyngham I (Destroyer No. 58)


Gustavus Conyngham -- born in County Donegal, Ireland in 1747 to a family of distinguished land holders -- emigrated to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in 1763 where Redmond Conyngham, his cousin, had founded the shipping company Conyngham & Nesbitt.  Gustavus worked for the company and one of the company’s ship captains tutored him at sea.  In 1773, he took command of one of the company’s merchantmen. When the War for Independence broke out in 1775, Conyngham & Nesbitt devoted the brig Charming Peggy to the dangerous task of obtaining war materiel for the Continental cause from European ports.  The firm entrusted the risky mission to Gustavus who set sail in the fall of 1775.

A British frigate stopped Charming Peggy soon after she had reached the English Channel, however, and claimed her for a prize. Conyngham turned the table on his captors, however, quietly overpowered the British prize crew and regained control of his ship and escaped to neutral Netherlands.  British diplomats compelled the Dutch to intern the American merchantman, however, forcing her captain to sell her.    

Conyngham travelled to France attempting to procure a vessel to sail back to the United States with the materiel so vital to the American war effort. While in France he learned that Congress had granted Benjamin Franklin, one of the American commissioners in Paris, the power to confer commissions and outfit ships to attack British trade.  Conyngham received a captain’s commission from Franklin along with the newly purchased Continental Navy lugger Surprize.

On 1 May 1777, Capt. Conyngham armed his new ship and cleared Dunkirk, capturing a British royal packet on the 2 May and a brigantine merchantman the following day before returning to Dunkirk with both prizes. The French port of Dunkirk, however, was prohibited by treaty from fitting out or hosting ships sailing against the British.  British representatives again compelled a neutral nation to take action against the American captain and French authorities confiscated the captured ships and jailed Conyngham and his crew on 10 May 1777.  The cruise had immediate effect on the British shipping industry, however, as insurance rates climbed drastically.

The French released the captain and his men on 10 June 1777, and Conyngham was presented with a new and larger vessel, the cutter Greyhound which was commissioned in the Continental Navy as Revenge.  Conyngham sailed his cutter around the British Isles, outrunning British frigates searching for him while burning, capturing, or ransoming six ships before reaching El Ferrol, Spain, on 23 August.

The American received assistance and sympathy in Spain and operated out of the nation for the better part of a year.  He captured four ships operating out of El Ferrol and Corunna in the fall in 1777.  Although initially successful, he overzealously captured the neutral French brig Gracieux with a cargo of British goods on 21 December 1777 before tying up at Bilbao.  The action angered the Spanish court, and Conyngham felt compelled to leave and put to sea on 6 March 1778.  Although initially the captain intended to sail to the Caribbean and the island of Martinique, Revenges first days at sea proved highly successful, as she captured three merchantmen in a week. The cutter later set fire to a Royal Navy tender and captured a British letter of marque after a short battle.  He sailed into the friendly Spanish port of Cadiz on 26 March.

Conyngham cleared Cadiz in April 1778 and captured four vessels as prizes along the Spanish and Portuguese coasts before putting into Coruna on 6 May.  Leaving Coruna a fortnight later, on 20 May, he again ran afoul of the law of the sea when after intercepting the neutral Swedish brig Honoria Sofia his near mutinous crew compelled the captain to allow them to take the captured vessel as a prize.  The Royal Court refused Revenge entry to Spanish ports and on 1 September, Conyngham sailed for new hunting grounds in the Caribbean.

Revenge arrived at Martinique, a French colony, on 9 October 1778 and fitted out for a cruise.  The continental agent on the island ordered the accomplished officer to attack British shipping in the West Indies and he left St. Pierre on 26 October.  On 13 November the American captured three merchant vessels and a privateer without a fight.  The British Privateer brig Loyalist was less cooperative three days later but Revenge forced her to strike her colors after a gunnery duel. Conyngham captured one last prize on his next cruise in December before the American agent in Martinique sent him to Philadelphia with a shipment of arms on 5 February 1779.  There he became embroiled in a legal suit with members of his crew over prize money and Congress sold Revenge at auction. 

A consortium of owners placed him at the helm of Revenge, sailing as a privateer. On 27 April 1779, Conyngham eagerly gave chase to two British privateers who led the pursuing American cutter through the Delaware capes straight into an ambush by the frigate HMS Galatea.  Trapped and unable to outrun her adversary’s guns, Revenge struck her colors. The British poorly treated the hapless officer at first, even threatening him with execution, until the Continental Congress promised to treat a British officer in kind. The British then transferred their prisoner to Mill Prison in Plymouth, England, to await exchange.  Taking his freedom into his own hands Conyngham made three escape attempts, finally succeeding by tunneling under the walls on 3 November 1779 with 53 others and joining Capt. John Paul Jones in Holland.

The two Continental captains ran the British blockade and after a short cruise put into Coruna, Spain. Conyngham attempted to reach the United States on a merchant vessel but the ship was captured and the British returned fugitive captain to Mill Prison.  Unredeemed after a year but similarly undeterred, the wily prisoner bribed an Irish guard that he had befriended, slipping out an unguarded back door in June 1781.  He then rowed out to a smuggler who whisked him to France and freedom.  He returned to Philadelphia on board the ship Hannibal after an abortive bid to return to sea as commander of the 24-gun Layonna. 

Upon his return to Philadelphia, Conyngham attempted to return to sea and receive payment and prize money due to him as a Navy captain.  Unfortunately, his status as an American officer was muddled by the impromptu manner of his commission, which was granted by commissioners in Paris rather than Congress, and the fact that French authorities confiscated his commission in 1777.  In response to his October 1782 memorial asking for recognition and pay owed as a captain in the Continental Navy, Congress denied his status in January 1784 claiming the commissions offered by the Paris Commission were temporary in nature and since the commission was not granted by Congress he did not hold the same status as other Navy captains.  Conyngham was denied acknowledgement and recompense despite the fact that he took 31 prizes during the war, more than any other Continental Navy officer.  He unsuccessfully fought that ruling until his death.

Conyngham returned to the merchant service and took up arms again for the U.S. as a privateer during the Quasi-War with France 1798-1800.  He commanded the armed brig Maria commissioned as a privateer in May 1800 and was convoyed to Cartagena by the U.S. brig Norfolk with fellow privateer Louisa beginning in late May.  The three-ship convoy engaged an impetuous French schooner on 19 June off of St. Martin and drove her off with gunfire.  Otherwise Capt. Conyngham’s tenure at the helm of Maria was a quiet one.  The convoy arrived in Cartagena one week later where his actions are unknown.  In 1798 the Independence Chronicle of Boston claimed that the privateer America out of Philadelphia under a captain named “Cunningham” won a victory over a French privateer on 28 September 1798.  Since Conyngham’s name was often anglicized as Cunningham, it is possible that he was America’s master. 

The old sailor attempted to put to sea again during the war of 1812 but his failing health prevented further naval engagements with the British. Instead, he contributed as a member of the Common Council of Philadelphia and assisted in preparing the defense of the city.  Conyngham died in Philadelphia on 27 November 1819.  Capt. John Barnes U.S.N., the President of the Naval History Society of New York, discovered Conyngham’s lost commission among papers held by a French rare document dealer in the first decades of the 20th century. 


(Destroyer No. 58: displacement 1,090 (standard); length 315'3", beam 29'10"; draft 9'4½"; speed 29.63 knots; complement 101; armament 4 4-inch, 8 21-inch torpedo tubes; class Tucker)

The first Conyngham (Destroyer No. 58) was laid down on 27 July 1914 at Philadelphia, Pa., by William Cramp & Sons; launched on 8 July 1915; sponsored by Miss Anna Conyngham Stevens, great-great-granddaughter of Capt. Gustavus Conyngham; and commissioned at the Philadelphia [Pa.] Navy Yard on 21 January 1916, Lt. Cmdr. Alfred W. Johnson in command.

After fitting-out, Conyngham departed the Philadelphia Navy Yard on 22 February 1916 for Newport, R.I., arriving there three days later. She obtained her outfit of torpedoes, then sailed for Key West, Fla., on 4 March. She continued her shakedown in the Caribbean, returning to Philadelphia for post-shakedown repairs and alterations and to run her final trials.

Clearing Philadelphia on 17 May 1916, Conyngham returned to Newport the next day, then over the ensuing weeks operated from that place as she carried out trials in Gardiner’s Bay and off the coast of New England. She participated in Independence Day exercises at Eastport, Maine, then returned again to Newport to join the Eighth Division, Destroyer Force, to practice tactics and war maneuvers.

Following repairs at the Boston [Mass.] Navy Yard, that process starting soon after her arrival there on 21 July 1916, Conyngham ran her final acceptance trials on 27 July. She then returned to Newport on the 29th to resume operations with the Fleet. Clearing Newport on 30 August, the destroyer reached the Norfolk Navy Yard, Portsmouth, Va., the next day, then carried out a period of target practice on the Southern Drill Grounds. Completing those evolutions on 21 September, she again set course for Newport four days later, and reached her destination on the 26th.

At Buzzard’s Bay (2-7 October 1916), Conyngham assisted Wainwright (Destroyer No. 62) and Sampson (Destroyer No. 63) in checking torpedo buoys, then obtained stores. She then resumed work on the torpedo range, acting on occasion as a target for the other destroyers and carrying out elementary torpedo practice with Division Eight and the Destroyer Flotilla, training punctuated by scouting for survivors of the steamer Kingston (11-12 October).

After proceeding from Newport to Boston on 1 November 1916, Conyngham lay in yard hands for a little over two months undergoing repairs and alterations, after which she ran post-repair trials and tests of her Parsons turbine. Standing out of the Boston Navy Yard for warmer climes on 7 January 1917, Conyngham steamed to the West Indies to join the Fleet. Arriving off Culebra on 15 January, the destroyer participated in fleet maneuvers and war games in the Caribbean, ending up at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, by the first week of February. Departing Cuban waters on 10 February, the destroyer returned to Boston five days later for repairs to her turbine.

Emerging from the yard on 18 March 1917, Conyngham proceeded to Norfolk, Va., steaming via Newport and Hampton Roads, to rejoin the Fleet during a period of rising tensions between the U.S. and Germany, and reached her destination on 23 March. Attached to the Patrol Force of the Fifth Naval District, Conyngham operated out of Norfolk, Va., with Wadsworth (Destroyer No. 60) and Sampson, into the second week of April, during which time, on 6 April, the U.S. declared war on Germany. Conyngham, Wadsworth and Sampson patrolled the approaches to Chesapeake Bay through 12 April.

Ordered to proceed to the Boston Navy Yard via New York, to prepare for distant service, Conyngham stood out of the York River at 3:56 a.m. on 14 April 1917, in company with Wainwright, McDougal (Destroyer No. 54) and Davis (Destroyer No. 65).  The squadron, joined by Wadsworth en route, reached New York at 6:00 p.m. on the same date.  The following day, the destroyers proceeded to Boston, arriving on 16 April.  Conyngham went into dry dock for fitting out on 24 April and work was completed in time to join the aforementioned ships and Porter (Destroyer No. 59) when they left Boston Harbor.  After reaching a point 50 miles east of Cape Cod, Mass., Cmdr. Joseph K. Taussig, the division commander in Wadsworth, opened his sealed orders to lead the six destroyers to Queenstown [Cobh], Ireland.  Conyngham and her divisionmates were the first U.S. men of war deployed to European waters during World War I.

The destroyers completed their transatlantic voyage on 4 May 1917, and the British destroyer HMS Mary Rose escorted the Americans into port.  Cmdr. Taussig met with Vice Adm.  Lewis Bayly of the Royal Navy, Commander of the Naval Forces on the Coast of Ireland, who asked “When will you be ready for sea?”  Taussig replied: “We are ready now, Sir, that is, as soon as we finish refueling.” While the Americans might have been willing to undertake their mission, their ships required modifications before they engaged German submarines, and over the next few days the U.S. ships were fitted with depth charges.

On 8 May 1917, Conyngham stood out from Queenstown on her first patrol, escorting the British steamship Adriatic to Liverpool -- the first British steamer to be shepherded by a U.S. destroyer.  Nine days later, Conyngham reported her first submarine sighting, when her lookouts sighted a boat at a distance of four miles.  She closed on her adversary at 22 knots but watched her quarry submerge without a trace, after which she returned to patrol.

While escorting the British steamer Arakaka at 7:25 a.m. on 29 May 1917, lookouts spotted a submarine seven to ten miles away which submerged as she closed.  After rejoining her charge, Conyngham spotted another submarine but it, too, escaped beneath the waves.

On 9 June 1918, Conyngham and three fellow escorts found themselves dwarfed by their charge, the converted White Star Liner Celtic.  While under the Americans’ watch, the Right Honorable Arthur J. Balfour, the British Foreign Minister; Rear Adm. Dudley R. S. de Chair, KCB, MVO, of the Royal Navy; ten U.S. colonels, and Canadian troops were on board the massive vessel that had once hosted passengers that ranged from first class to steerage.  The foreign minister transmitted thanks to his guardians, stating: “Am proud to be escorted by ships of the American Navy.” Conyngham saw the liner to Liverpool, England.  While steaming away, Celtic signaled the compliments of Rear Adm. deChair who commended the Americans on the efficiency of the convoy.

Conyngham was among the warships that received and escorted the first U.S. troop convoy to St. Nazaire, France, beginning on 23 June 1917.  It was also the first convoy guarded by U.S. escorts. “More than one heart beat a little faster,” wrote Lt. Aaron S. “Tip” Merrill, Conyngham’s officer of the deck at the time of the rendezvous, “when the two areas of the service met some several thousand miles from home.” The convoy reached France three days later.

Less than two months later, Conyngham searched for survivors of the torpedoed British passenger steamer Karina on 1 August 1917, which had been sunk by UC-75 (Oberleutnant zur See Johannes Lohs).  Her quest recovered 39 survivors and three bodies which she disembarked at Queenstown.

On 18 October 1917, the Conyngham was leading an escort consisting of ten destroyers while flying the senior officer pennant of Cmdr. Johnson.  She met convoy H.D. 7 at sea.  In the early afternoon of 19 October, Johnson unsuccessfully attempted to persuade the convoy commander on board the British armed merchant cruiser Orama, to change course due to reported submarines ahead.  Hours later, while the exchange of signals with the armed merchant cruiser continued, a torpedo originating from inside the H.D. 7 convoy perimeter slammed into Orama’s port side, fired by U-62 (Kapitänleutnant Ernst Hashagen). The destroyer’s lookouts sighted a periscope, first within the columns of H.D. 7, then 2 points on the starboard bow, 300 yards away.  A running battle developed within the convoy.  Conyngham closed on the target but U-62 submerged, after which the destroyer dropped a depth charge on the spot.  The crew noted six foot long broken pieces of spar were brought to the surface along with other debris. 

With the U-boat perhaps hors de combat, Johnson provided instructions to the escorts and took command of the rescue operation. The destroyers recovered lifeboats and later took the remaining crew of Orama off the sinking vessel. The Americans saved all 593 passengers and crew – one of the largest ships accounted for by U-boats during the World War -- before she sank four hours after being attacked.  Conyngham disembarked 168 survivors at Milford Harbor, Wales, on 20 October. She later received the thanks of Orama’s crew, as well as a glowing commendation from Vice Adm. Bayly. While the British Admiralty later classified the attack as “submarine probably seriously damaged,” U-62 went on to fight another day. Cmdr. Johnson later received the Navy Distinguished Service Medal for his ship’s performance.

Steaming in convoy, however, could be dangerous work due to the inherent hazards of shiphandling and station-keeping. On 31 October 1917, British steamer Highland Laddie and Conyngham barely averted a serious collision when the steamer misinterpreted the destroyer’s maneuvers. The two vessels suffered a minor collision destroying a lifeboat from the British ship. Vice Adm. William S. Sims found the British merchantman at fault.

While escorting a convoy with U.S. and British destroyers on 17 November 1917, Conyngham was present for the sinking of the German submarine U-58 (Kapitänleutnant Gustav Amberger). Fanning (Destroyer No. 37) and Nicholson (Destroyer No. 52) received credit for the victory when Fanning forced the submarine to surface following a well-placed depth charge barrage.  The incident was the war’s only confirmed U.S. victory over a German submarine unassisted by British forces.

While Conyngham was zig-zagging ahead of her convoy during the last dog watch on 22 November 1917 she spotted a vessel flashing distress signals.  The destroyer closed and learned that she was the British steamship Hartland and had been torpedoed two hours earlier by U-97 (Kapitänleutnant Otto Wünsche).  The U.S. destroyer took off 28 of her crew and transferred them to an allied ship at Hollyhead Harbor, Wales; Hartland made port under tow.

The Queenstown destroyer division suffered a loss on 6 December 1917 when U-53 (Kapitänleutnant Hans Rose) torpedoed and sank Jacob Jones. Conyngham searched for survivors from her sister ship on 6-7 December without results.  The British sloop HMS Camillia rescued three rafts of survivors.

After eight months in the war zone Conyngham docked in Liverpool on 3 January 1918 and British shipbuilders Cammell-Laird & Co., Ltd., of Liverpool overhauled her.  She spent twelve days in dry dock receiving the required work.   Returning to sea a little over a fortnight later, the destroyer spotted a submarine with decks awash on 20 January 1918 but the enemy submerged and escaped, while a depth charge failed to explode.

Conyngham’s lookouts spotted a blacked-out ship 500 yards away on the bow on the night of 13 March 1918. The unknown vessel turned erratically until she was threatening collision with the U.S. destroyer.  The officer of the deck ordered all engines back full and to engage in emergency maneuvers to avoid collision. Despite all efforts, however, the two vessels collided, with the destroyer’s bow delivering a slight blow to the port quarter of the vessel that revealed herself as the British steamship Logic. Conyngham’s bow was bent in the collision and Logic suffered damage as well.

Less than a month later, on 4 April 1918, Conyngham was guarding a troop convoy when the troop transport Martha Washington (Id. No. 3019) spotted and fired on an alleged periscope.  Conyngham steamed to the spot of the sighting and dropped a solitary depth charge.  She was soon joined by other destroyers who added to the barrage, but the attackers did not witness any apparent results.

While steaming at 10:30 a.m. on 21 May 1918 in a dense fog near western Ireland’s Seven Heads peninsula, Conyngham ran onto the rocks.  The ship’s captain awaited high tide which freed him from the predicament, after which the damaged destroyer steamed for Queenstown.  She underwent repairs to her bow in dry dock at Rushbrooke, Ireland, from 23 May to 19 June.  A court-martial originally recommended no action against Conyngham’s officers, but a subsequent review faulted the commanding officer and executive officer, and they received written reprimands from Vice Adm. Sims.

While escorting a convoy on 13 September 1918, Conyngham spotted an oil patch on the port beam 800 yards away towards the end of the forenoon watch.  Shaw (Destroyer No. 68) dropped depth charges on the slick and Conyngham added three of her own without any visible results.  Thirty minutes later, she sighted a second slick and dropped eight more charges -- again without result.

Soon after clearing Liverpool at 6:30 a.m. on 30 October 1918 to convoy the British troop transport [converted liner] Mauretania, Conyngham faced a strong gale and rough seas.  The bulkheads in the wardroom began to bend and the crew noticed several bad leaks.  The commanding officer ordered the vessel back to Liverpool after six hours of bucking the waves.  After inspection, Conyngham steamed from Liverpool to Queenstown for repairs, arriving on 1 November, where Melville (Destroyer Tender No. 2)’s men performed the required work.

One week later, on 7 November 1918, the newly repaired ship resumed escort duty only to be caught again by high seas that swept two depth charges overboard.  Potential damage from the explosive charges was averted by careful application of their safety pins and the actions of the gun crew on watch.  BM1c Joseph Greis and GM2c Tyler Hamblen each received the Navy Cross for their heroism in securing the potentially volatile charges in the storm.  The battered destroyer continued to her rendezvous with British transport [converted liner] Aquitania and escorted her to Brest, France.

Conyngham’s war ended, however, in medical quarantine due to a case of cerebric-spinal meningitis diagnosed on board. The ship was quarantined on 10 November 1918 and 24 men quartered close to the patient were taken from the ship for particularly close attention.  The quarantine was lifted on 20 November and all 24 sailors were returned by 1 December 1918.  The war had ended, meanwhile, with the Armistice on 11 November.

Conyngham left with 11 other U.S. destroyers for the U.S. on 15 December 1918. After touching at the Azores and Bermuda en route, she returned to the Boston Navy Yard, arriving on 3 January 1919.  There she was refitted and received repairs in dry dock (11-15 January).

Conyngham struck a submerged object near West Island, Mass., on 8 February 1919 damaging both of her screws, after which she again received repairs. Soon thereafter, she assisted in escorting the troop transport George Washington (Id. No. 3018), with President Woodrow Wilson on board, on her final leg back from the Paris Peace conference in February 1919.  Ordered to Charleston, S.C., for urgent repairs on her boilers and condensers, work that began on 24 May 1919, meant that the ship could play no part in supporting the Navy’s transatlantic flight of the NC flying boats.

On 1 July 1920, Conyngham was reclassified from Destroyer No. 58 to DD-58. Beginning on 16 June 1921, the ship escorted a Cuban gunboat carrying the body of former Cuban President Jose Miguel Gomez from Charleston to Key West, Fla., and then to Havana, arriving on 18 June 1921. Ultimately, Conyngham was placed out of commission in Philadelphia on 23 June 1922. 

By 1924, the passage of the 18th Amendment (Prohibition) had spawned a thriving traffic in smuggled spirits. The U.S. Coast Guard’s small fleet, charged with stopping the illegal maritime importation, was not equal to the task. Consequently, President Calvin Coolidge proposed to bolster that fleet with 20 of the Navy’s inactive destroyers, and Congress authorized the necessary funds on 2 April 1924. Adapting these vessels to service was thought to be less costly than building new ships. In the end, however, the rehabilitation of the vessels became a saga in itself because of the exceedingly poor condition of many of the war-weary ships. Additionally, since the destroyers were by far the largest and most sophisticated vessels ever operated by the Coast Guard; trained crewmen were nearly non-existent. As a result, Congress subsequently authorized hundreds of new enlisted billets. It was these inexperienced recruits that generally made up the destroyer crews.

Conyngham was transferred to the Treasury Department, along with eleven other destroyers, for service with the Coast Guard on 28 April 1924. Initially placed under the control of the Coast Guard Receiving Unit at the Philadelphia Navy Yard, Coast Guardsmen and Navy yard workers overhauled Conyngham’s hull, stripped her of depth charge gear and torpedo tubes, and replaced her guns., “The winter of 1924–25 was exceptionally severe,” historian Malcolm F. Willoughby has noted, “Work on destroyers went on day after day in close to zero weather often without the vestige of heat. Some boilers and engines were in fairly good condition, while others were in a deplorable state. New, quick-firing, long-range guns were installed; torpedo tubes and Y-guns for depth charges were removed to lighten weight and remove unneeded equipment.”

Retaining her name, Conyngham was given  the identification number CG-2 and commissioned at Cape May, N.J., on 8 March 1925, Lt. Cmdr. Edward D. Jones, USCG, in command. Initially assigned to be homeported at Cape May, the destroyer arrived at New London, Conn., and duty with Division Three, Destroyer Force on 20 March 1925. On one of her first patrols, Conyngham witnessed the gas yacht Pattina out of New York, speeding away from a known “rumrunner,” the British-flagged Athena from Nassau, Bahamas. With multiple shots across the yacht’s bow and having sighted numerous wooden cases in her wake, Conyngham seized the boat and arrested those on board. Later, the destroyer transferred to duty based on Stapleton, Staten Island, N.Y.

Capable of well over 25 knots, seemingly an advantage in the interdicting of rum runners, Conyngham and her fellow destroyers were easily outmaneuvered by smaller vessels. Their mission, therefore, was to picket the larger supply ships (“mother ships”) on Rum Row and prevent them from off-loading their illicit cargo onto the smaller, speedier contact boats that ran the liquor into shore. An example of this routine was Conyngham’s picketing of the known “black ship” Kirk & Sweeney which lay anchored offshore on 27 October 1925. The destroyer continued her surveillance of the rum runner until Paulding (CG-17) relieved her the next day, at which point she continued to scout her designated patrol area. The next day, she picketed Athena in the lee of Block Island, R.I.  Afterward, she resumed patrolling her sector until relieved by radio by Henley (CG-12) on 1 November and returning to Stapleton early the next morning.

Within her first year of service with the Coast Guard, Conyngham competed in the service’s target practices for Gunnery Year 1925-1926. Despite not being equipped with salvo buzzers, the destroyer rated 7th out of the 22 destroyers and cutters that fired in the competition.

Conyngham received orders on 22 May 1926, to report to Boston Navy Yard as her new duty station, she reported for duty on 10 July. During the competition for Gunnery Year 1926-1927, her performance fell off from the preceding year, rating 11th of the 16 destroyers that participated. On 17 December 1927, Paulding (CG-17) accidently rammed and sank the submarine S-4 (SS-109) as the latter ship was surfacing off Provincetown, Mass. As a result, Conyngham refrained as much as possible from sending radio messages in order to allow the rescue fleet uninterrupted traffic in sending reports concerning the progress of operations.

Conyngham conducted her routine patrolling and interdiction mission through the spring and summer of 1928. Having been relieved from her patrolling duties where she had encountered no suspicious activities, Conyngham, on 27 October 1928, reported to Wainwright (CG-24) at Bar Harbor, Maine, for the observance of Navy Day, where destroyer Maury (DD-100) joined them. At the festivities’ completion, Conyngham and Wainwright departed for a return to Boston and arrived at 0730 the next day. Later, during the Gunnery Year 1928-1929 battle practices, Conyngham’s fifth position in the long-range battle practice lifted her standing to 6th overall after she rated just 11th among 24 in the short-range battle practice.

While standing out of Boston Harbor for patrol on 13 June 1929, Conyngham’s steering gear became jammed. Shifting to her hand gear, she stood for President’s Roads where she anchored and made the requisite repairs, after which she continued on to her routine patrolling assignment in Area Baker. With the approach of foggy weather, however, the destroyer was relieved and she returned to base on the 18th.

On 3 January 1930, Conyngham received orders to proceed to the Norfolk Navy Yard, Portsmouth, Va., to take target material on board. In her haste to complete this mission, the ship approached at too great a speed and the resulting bow and stern wave caused damage to the pier and to the vessels lying at Naval Operating Base, Hampton Roads, Va. Afterward, she reported to the target shoots for Gunnery Year 1929-1930, where she stood 12th among the 19 destroyers who competed in the record fires. Later in the year, on 3 June, Conyngham observed the German dirigible, Graf Zeppelin, as she circled the Nantucket lightship. After relief by a destroyer from Division One, she returned to Boston and moored at the Navy Yard.

Assigned to Patrol Area Baker One, Conyngham departed the Boston Navy Yard for patrol with Division Three on 25 November 1930. She cruised in her sector until 30 November. Afterward, she headed south on 3 December bound for the Washington Navy Yard. Passing through Hampton Roads on the 4th, she moved north up the Chesapeake Bay and Potomac River arrived at the Washington Navy Yard, the next day. After a brief stay in Washington, she headed back north and arrived at the New York Navy Yard on 9 December 1930. The next day she assumed duty as the Division Three flagship, in the absence of Cassin (CG-1) which was undergoing repairs, and conducted her routine patrol from 10-15 December 1930. Conyngham would see her gunnery standing among destroyers in Gunnery Year 1930-1931 hampered by a poor long-range battle practice score, resulting in her finishing ninth of thirteen.

Conyngham received orders on 12 March 1932 to take on crewmen from Herndon (CG-17) as the latter was undergoing repairs and would not be participating in the annual gunnery practices on 21 March for Gunnery Year 1931-1932 at Base No. 21, St. Petersburg, Fla. In those orders, the command of Division Three was transferred Conyngham’s commanding officer, Cmdr. Gustavus U. Stewart, USCG. She finished seventh among the thirteen destroyers in the competition, rating fifth in the short-range battle practice and sixth in the long-range. On 2 September 1932, Conyngham departed New London for patrol. She arrived at the Boston Navy Yard on 20 October.

Conyngham’s grueling anti-smuggling interdiction duties off the Eastern seaboard wore on her and over time she, along with her fellow former-Navy destroyers, had become unfit for service. She was ordered detached from the Destroyer Force and assigned to the force under the command of the Coast Guard Representative, Philadelphia Navy Yard. She arrived at Philadelphia on 27 March 1933, where she was decommissioned on 5 June 1933.

Conyngham was returned to the Navy on 30 June 1933, and lost her name on 1 November 1933 so that it could be assigned to a new construction destroyer. Retaining her identification number as her name, DD-58, she remained in reserve at Philadelphia into the next year. Stricken from the Naval Register on 5 July 1934, the veteran that had hunted U-boats in the World War and chased run runners in the Roaring Twenties was sold to Michael Flynn, Inc., of Brooklyn, N.Y., on 22 August 1934, in accordance with the London Treaty on the Reduction of Naval Armament.

S. Matthew Cheser, Christopher B. Havern, Jr., and Robert J. Cressman

3 May 2017

Published: Wed May 03 19:36:32 EDT 2017