Whipple I (Destroyer No. 217)
Abraham Whipple – born on 26 September 1733, near Providence, R.I. – chose to be a seafarer early in his life and embarked upon a career in the lucrative West Indies trade as a merchant captain in the employ of the Brown brothers of Providence. He commanded the privateer Game Cock (1759–1760) during the French and Indian War (1754–1763) and captured 23 French ships during one six-month cruise.
In the decade following the war with France, many American colonists began to resist what they considered oppressive measures on the part of the British crown. HMS Gaspee, a British customs schooner that had been enforcing the Navigation Acts in the Narragansett Bay around Newport, R.I. The ship’s enforcement efforts were unpopular as they interfered with Rhode Island’s lucrative illicit rum trade. The vessel ran aground in the shallows of Warwick, R.I. while chasing the packet ship Hannah on 9 June 1772. Whipple and John Brown led 50 Rhode Islanders who attacked, boarded, and then torched the ship. This was one of the seminal violent acts of protest in advance of the outbreak of the American Revolution in April 1775.
With the war’s outbreak after the battles at Lexington and Concord, Rhode Island became the first colony to establish a navy. The General Assembly authorized the charter of two sloops, Katy and Washington for the purpose of defending the colony's trade on 15 June 1775. Whipple, then in command of the 12-gun Katy, was named commodore of the nascent fleet. That same day he reported capturing the tender of the British frigate HMS Rose. Katy then cruised in Narragansett Bay through the summer protecting coastal shipping. With the Continental Army, then besieging Boston, facing a severe gunpowder shortage, Rhode Island Deputy Governor Nicholas Cooke dispatched Whipple to cruise for two weeks off Sandy Hook, N.J. to intercept a powder-laden packet expected from London. He was then to proceed to Bermuda to capture the powder stored in the British magazine there. Katy departed Narragansett Bay on 12 September, but did not intercept the packet. Upon reaching Bermuda, Whipple learned that the powder from the magazine was already en route to Philadelphia, Pa.
Katy was purchased by Rhode Island on 31 October 1775, soon after she returned to Providence. Late in November, she cleared for Philadelphia carrying seamen enlisted in New England by Como. Esek Hopkins for service in the Continental Navy, established on 13 October. She arrived on 3 December and was immediately taken into Continental service by agents of the Continental Congress. She was fitted out as a sloop-of-war and renamed Providence.
Whipple received a captain’s commission in the Continental Navy on 8 December 1775 and re-assigned to command the 24-gun converted merchantman Columbus on 22 December. In company with the other ships of Hopkins' squadron, Columbus took part in the expedition to New Providence, Bahamas, where the first Navy-Marine Corps amphibious operation seized essential military supplies at Nassau (17 February–8 April 1776).
During the return passage the squadron captured the British schooner, Hawk, on 4 April 1776, and brig Bolton on the 5th. Continuing, the squadron engaged the 20-gun sixth-rate post ship Glasgow on 6 April. After three hours the action was broken off and Glasgow escaped, leaving her tender to be captured. After returning north to New England, Whipple captured five British prizes before 27 March 1778, when his ship ran aground off Judith Point, R.I. After stripping the ship, the captain and his crew abandoned her and escaped capture ashore.
Next assigned to command the 28-gun frigate Providence, Whipple ran the British blockade on the night of 30 April 1778, damaging HMS Lark and outrunning another Britisher during the escape. Tacking for France, Whipple's Providence crossed the Atlantic unmolested, bearing important dispatches relating to agreements between France and the American colonies, and reached Paimboeuf, France. After acquiring needed guns and supplies for the Continental Army, Providence and Boston sailed home to the colonies, taking three prizes en route.
Upon his return, Whipple received command of a small squadron: Providence, Ranger, and Queen of France. On one occasion in mid-July 1779, this group of ships encountered a large British convoy in dense fog off the Newfoundland Banks. Whipple cagily concealed his guns and ran up the British flag. Like a wolf among sheep, he cut eleven prizes out of the convoy, eight of which contained spoils of war valued together at over one million dollars, easily one of the richest captures of the entire war.
Following this adventure, Whipple cruised off Bermuda before arriving at Charleston, S.C., on 23 December 1779. British forces threatened that key port, causing the guns and crews from the Continental Navy ships in port to be moved on shore to reinforce the land batteries to repulse the expected British assault. After a rugged four-month siege, however, the overwhelming British pressure forced the Continentals to surrender on 12 May 1780. Maj. Gen. Benjamin Lincoln, commander of the Continental Army at Charleston, ordered him to surrender his entire fleet, rather than try to fight his way out. Whipple remained a prisoner of the British until he was paroled to Chester, Pa., and he took no further part in the war. Upon the conclusion of hostilities, Whipple took up farming near Cranston, R.I.
For the remainder of his life, he remained a farmer, with the exception of two spells of seafaring as master of merchantmen, first of General Washington and then of St. Clair. With the formation of the Ohio Company in 1788 and the westward migration into that territory, Whipple and his family became pioneers and were among the founders of the town of Marietta, Ohio. Granted a pension by Congress in recognition of his distinguished service in helping to win American independence, Whipple died at Marietta on 27 May 1819.
Abraham Whipple, along with John Barry and John Paul Jones, ranks among the foremost U.S. naval commanders in the Revolutionary War.
(Torpedo Boat Destroyer No. 15: displacement 600; length 259'6"; beam 23'3"; draft 6'; speed 28.24 knots; complement 73; armament 2 3-inch, 6 6-pounders, 2 18-inch torpedo tubes; class Truxtun)
The first Whipple (Torpedo Boat Destroyer No. 15) was laid down on 13 November 1899 at Sparrows Point, Md., by the Maryland Steel Co.; launched on 15 August 1901; sponsored by Miss Elsie Pope, great-great-granddaughter of Abraham Whipple; and commissioned at the Norfolk Navy Yard, Portsmouth, Va., on 17 February 1903, Lt. Jehu V. Chase in command.
Whipple, initially based at the Norfolk Navy Yard, conducted her trials and training exercises in the Chesapeake Bay, operating between Norfolk and Annapolis, Md. (3 April–8 June). She then cleared Norfolk on 21 July and arrived the following day at New London, Conn. Then steaming in to Long Island Sound on 23 July, she proceeded to Frenchman’s Bay, Maine, where she arrived on 26 July. That same day she was re-assigned to the 2nd Torpedo Flotilla, North Atlantic Fleet. She remained there conducting exercises until 12 August, when she departed for Oyster Bay, N.Y., reaching on the 15th. Departing on 17 August, she was bound for Penobscot Bay, Maine, via New London (18–20 August). She arrived at Rockland, Maine (21–24 August) before participating in joint Army-Navy maneuvers followed by a visit to Portland, Maine, on 29 August. She then entered the Boston (Mass.) Navy Yard (3–5 September) before making a three-day visit to Newport, R.I. (8–11 September) in advance of going to sea for training and making her return to Newport on 15 September. She received orders attaching her to the Coast Squadron, North Atlantic Fleet on 26 September. Getting underway on 30 September, the destroyer shuttled between New London and Newport to 2 October. Departing Newport on 5 October, she steamed southward, arriving at Yorktown, Va. (6–10 October), then entered the Norfolk Navy Yard until 12 December. The ship then shifted to Hampton Roads, Va. (12–17 December) before standing out into the Atlantic.
Whipple steamed southward and arrived at Charleston, S.C. on 18 December 1903. Departing the next day, she proceeded via Port Royal, S.C. (20 December), and reached Key West, Fla., on the 23rd. After spending the Christmas holidays in port, she cleared for the Dry Tortugas, Fla., on the 29th and reached the same day. The following day, she departed and arrived at Tampa, Fla. on 31 December, where she remained through the New Year’s holidays.
Whipple cleared Tampa on 5 January 1904 and cruised the waters off Florida into February, making port visits to Key West (8–11 January; 16–18 January) before entering the Pensacola (Fla.) Navy Yard (20 January–21 February). Clearing the yard, she steamed to Bahia Honda, Fla. (23–24 February) en route to Key West (24–28 February). She returned to Pensacola on 29 February and entering the yard on 1 March remained there until 5 April. Upon clearing the yard, she steamed to Galveston, Texas (6–16 April), then returned to Pensacola (18 April). The warship then shuttled to Galveston (24–26 April), before making her return to Pensacola (29 April–4 May). Getting underway, she reached Key West (6–8 May), en route to Newport News, Va., via Sewell’s Point, Va. (10–14 May). Shifting to Newport News on 14 May, she remained there until the 26th. The destroyer then spent the following weeks cruising in the Chesapeake Bay with visits to Annapolis (27 May–6 June); Solomons Island, Md. (10 June); and Yorktown (18–20 June). She then cleared the Chesapeake Bay and steamed north for Rhode Island, standing in to Narragansett Bay on 1 July.
Whipple spent the summer months cruising off New England between Marblehead, Mass. and New London and making periodic port visits during this time. Departing Newport on 10 August, she entered the Boston Navy Yard (12–19 August) before steaming southward for the Chesapeake. Steaming in to the bay, she touched at Solomons Island on 24 August, before moving on to Annapolis (30-31 August). She then returned to the lower Chesapeake, visiting Hampton Roads (1–10 September) and Tangier Sound, Va. (16 September–19 October). Entering the Norfolk Navy Yard on 19 October, she remained there until 21 December, when she got underway and cruised the bay until mooring at Sewell’s Point on 31 December.
Whipple got underway again on 7 January 1905 and shifted to Hampton Roads, in advance of clearing the Chesapeake on 9 January. Steaming southward via Charleston (10–12 January), she proceeded to the Caribbean to operate in the waters around Puerto Rico, making visits to San Juan (17–19 January; 3–5 February; 10-11 February) and Culebra Island (19 January–3 February; 5 February–10 February). The destroyer then moved on to Monte Cristi, Dominican Republic [D.R.] (12–13 February); Guantánamo Bay, Cuba (14–15 February); and Kingston, Jamaica (16–21 February). After making a second visit to Guantánamo Bay (21–24 February), she proceeded to Key West (26–28 February) en route to return to the Gulf of Mexico. Reaching Pensacola on 2 March, she operated in the waters of the Gulf coast to April 19th. Steaming via Key West (21–22 April), she stood in to Hampton Roads and moored there on 26 April. Remaining there until 4 May, she shifted to the Norfolk Navy Yard until 27 May. Getting underway, she steamed up the Chesapeake to Annapolis (28 May–5 June) and Solomons Island (7–11 June) before descending the bay to Newport News (17–24 June).
Whipple steamed between the Virginia capes into the Atlantic on 24 June 1905. Proceeding on a northerly course, she reached Gardiner’s Bay, N.Y. to conduct training (28 June–5 July). She then raised Rockland on 6 July and remained there until 10 July, when she got underway to return to Gardiner’s Bay (18 July). While en route on 17 July, she was detached from the Coast Squadron. After two days, she got underway on 20 July, bound for Norfolk, where she moored at the navy yard on 22 July. She was placed out of commission on 5 September at the Norfolk Navy Yard. That same day she was placed into reserve commission and assigned to the Reserve Torpedo Flotilla.
Whipple was detached from the Reserve Torpedo Flotilla on 16 July 1906. Re-commissioned that same day at the Norfolk Navy Yard, Lt. Edward Woods in command, the destroyer was assigned to the 2nd Torpedo Flotilla, Atlantic Fleet. Clearing Norfolk on 1 August, she steamed for the Newport Torpedo Station (Melville, R.I.), arriving on 3 August. Getting underway again ten days later on 13 August, she spent most of the remainder of the month operating in the waters off Maine conducting training with the flotilla. Departing Camden, Maine, on 30 August, she steamed to Smithtown Bay (Long Island), N.Y. (31 August), before shifting to President Theodore Roosevelt’s personal residence at Sagamore Hill on Oyster Bay on 2 September. Departing that same day, she transited to Newport. Arriving on 4 September, she remained there until 3 October, when she departed for the target grounds off Provincetown, Mass., for torpedo and gunnery training. Completing those evolutions on 15 October, she made her return to Newport later that day. After a week, she was again underway on 22 October, bound for League Island at the Philadelphia Navy Yard. Reaching the next day, she underwent maintenance until 23 November. Clearing the yard, she proceeded south to Hampton Roads, where she arrived on the 24th. Departing two days later, she steamed to Wilmington, N.C (26–27 November), en route to Key West. Reaching her destination on 1 December, she sortied the following day and spent most of the month cruising Florida waters, with visits to Dry Tortugas (20 December) and St. Petersburg, Fla. (29 December) before returning to Key West on the 30th.
After spending New Year’s Day at Key West, Whipple got underway on 5 January 1907 bound for the fleet’s annual training in Caribbean waters. She reached Guantánamo on 7 January and nine days later departed for Kingston (16–18 January), before returning on the 18th. She continued to operate around Guantanamo until 10 February, when she shifted to Santiago de Cuba (10–17 February), in advance of returning again to Guantanamo. Going to sea on 15 March, she next made landfall at Key West (6–12 April) before steaming for the Chesapeake Bay. Passing between the Virginia capes she moored at Hampton Roads on 16 April. Over the next month she remained in the lower Chesapeake shifting between Hampton Roads and Norfolk. Departing Hampton Roads on 16 May, she steamed north and after passing through the Verrazano Narrows, she steamed up the Hudson to the North River anchorage, mooring on 17 May. Departing on 6 June, she set a course for Hampton Roads, where she arrived the next day. She then shifted to the Norfolk Navy Yard on 13 June and underwent overhaul until 21 July. Afterward, she moved to League Island where she underwent additional maintenance (21 July–2 August). Clearing the Philadelphia Navy Yard, she steamed to Newport to conduct tactical training with the flotilla in New England waters into the fall. She departed Newport on 4 October and made her return to the Norfolk Navy Yard on the 6th. Entering the yard, she underwent maintenance to 1 December.
Whipple stood out from Hampton Roads on 2 December 1907 and headed south bound for the Caribbean to “show the flag” and conduct goodwill visits. Following in the wake of the sixteen battleships of the Great White Fleet, Whipple and her flotilla-mates initially called at San Juan (7–12 December); Trinidad (14–25 December) and arrived at Para, Brazil on 30 December. Getting underway again in the new year on 3 January 1908, she proceeded to visit Pernambuco, Brazil (10–13 January); Rio de Janeiro, Brazil (17–21 January); Buenos Aires, Argentina (26–30 January) before rounding Cape Horn to call at Punta Arenas, Chile (4–7 February). Continuing on she visited Talcahuano, Chile (15–25 February) and Callao, Peru (1–9 March) before reaching Panama City, Panama on 14 March. After eight days, she was again underway for Acapulco, Mexico (28 March–2 April) en route to conducting target practice at Magdalena Bay, Baja California, Mexico (5–26 April). She arrived at San Diego, Calif. on 28 April and remained there until 1 May, when she departed for San Francisco, Calif. via San Pedro, Calif. (1–3 May) and Santa Cruz, Calif. (4–5 May). Arriving on 6 May, she participated in a fleet review at San Francisco on 8 May 1908. Whipple then crossed San Francisco Bay and entered the Mare Island (Calif.) Navy Yard on 11 May. The destroyer was detached from the Atlantic Fleet on 1 June and assigned to the Pacific Torpedo Flotilla.
Whipple departed San Francisco under tow on 24 August 1908, arriving at Honolulu, Territory of Hawaii (T.H.) on 2 September and subsequently took part in fleet battle problems in Hawaiian waters. Upon completion of the exercises, she steamed for Pago Pago, Samoa (23 September–1 October). Then making her return to the west coast, she returned to Honolulu (17–22 October) en route to exercises in Magdalena Bay (2–28 November) before arriving at San Diego on 1 December. Clearing on 14 December, she visited Long Beach, Calif. (14-19 December) and Venice, Calif. (19–21 December) before making her return to San Diego on the 22d. She would remain there in port through the Christmas and New Year’s holidays.
Whipple was again underway on 25 January 1909. Having stood out from San Diego, she steamed northward through the Golden Gate and into the Mare Island Navy Yard on 26 January. She remained there undergoing maintenance until she cleared on 4 March. Making her return to her homeport at San Diego (5–12 March), she then moved south to Magdalena Bay, where she participated in annual gunnery and tactical training (13 March–16 April) before arriving back at San Diego on 18 April. After a period in port, she departed on 8 May and again steamed for the Mare Island Navy Yard and another period of maintenance. Entering the yard on 6 May, she remained until 29 June, when she cleared, bound for the Pacific Northwest. During her time in the yard, the destroyer was assigned to the Pacific Fleet on 21 June.
Whipple reached Seattle, Wash. on 29 June 1909 and remained there through 26 July. Departing that latter day, she steamed northbound for the Territory of Alaska. Initially visiting Sitka (30 July–3 August), she then briefly touched at Skagway (4 August) before proceeding to a similarly brief visit to Juneau (6 August). En route to her return to Washington state, she made a port call at Esquimalt, British Columbia, Canada (10–12 August), before steaming in to Bremerton, Wash., later on the 12th. Getting underway on 17 August, she shifted to Seattle from whence she would operate until 28 September. She then returned to Bremerton on the 28th. There she docked on 1 October to undergo maintenance until 4 October. Clearing the yard, she shuttled to Blaine, Wash. (7 October) before returning to Seattle. Departing the “Emerald City” on 10 October, she steamed south to San Francisco (14–24 October) en route to Mare Island. The destroyer remained at the navy yard until 29 October, when she departed for Magdalena Bay. Arriving on 1 November, she spent the entire month conducting tactical training and gunnery and torpedo exercises. During this time the Pacific Torpedo Fleet was detached from the Pacific Fleet on 26 November. Departing on 30 November she steamed in to San Diego on 2 December. Departing nine days later, 11 December, she was bound for Mare Island. Arriving on 13 December, she entered the yard and underwent maintenance into 1910. During this time, on 14 December, the destroyer was assigned to the 1st Torpedo Division, Pacific Torpedo Fleet.
With her yard work completed, Whipple cleared Mare Island on 1 February 1910 and arrived at San Pedro two days later. She remained there until 27 May, when she departed for Santa Cruz (28 –31 May); San Pedro (2–13 June); Sausalito, Calif. (15–17 June) before arriving at Hoquiam, Wash. on the 19th. Whipple departed Hoquiam, Wash. on 5 July 1910, then spent the summer and fall largely in port at Mare Island (7–23 July); San Diego (25 July–3 September); San Francisco (4–15 September); Mare Island (15–29 September); and San Diego (1 October–2 November). She then entered the yard at Mare Island on 4 November and remained there well into 1911.
Whipple finally resumed operations underway when she steamed out of the Mare Island Navy Yard on 9 July 1911. Before clearing San Francisco Bay, she made an overnight visit to Sausalito (9–10 July). Clearing the Golden Gate on the 10th, the destroyer turned on a northerly course bound for the Pacific Northwest via Eureka, Calif. (11–12 July). Over the following weeks, the destroyer made a series of port visits throughout the region. Initially, arriving at Hoquiam (14–15 July), she then moved on to Bremerton (16–19 July) and Seattle (19–24 July) before returning to Bremerton (25–29 July). Continuing to visit ports in Washington, she touched at Tacoma (29 July), Bellingham (30–31 July), and Everett (31 July) in advance of another period at Bremerton (31 July–8 August). After departing Bremerton, Whipple turned southward to visit Oregon, calling at Astoria (9–20 August) and Portland (20–23 August) before returning for a second time to Astoria (23–24 August). She then stood out from the Oregon coast and steamed into Mare Island (26 August–15 September) en route to her homeport. She reached San Diego on 17 September, then spent the next few months moving between San Diego and San Pedro. Standing out from San Diego on 8 December, she arrived at Mare Island on the 10th. Entering the yard, that same day, she remained there through the holiday season and for four weeks beyond New Year’s Day.
Whipple cleared the yard on 29 January 1912, and transiting via Sausalito (29 January), made her return to San Diego the following day. The ship remained in port well into spring, getting underway on 27 May for a return to Mare Island. Touching at Santa Barbara, Calif., en route (28 May–1 June), she reached the Mare Island Navy Yard on 2 June. The destroyer remained there undergoing maintenance through the month’s end. Clearing on 1 July, she touched at Sausalito (1 July) before continuing on to Santa Cruz (1–7 July); Santa Barbara (8–14 July); and San Pedro (15–22 July) en route to a return to San Diego later on the 22d. The destroyer then spent the succeeding months cruising the waters of southern California conducting training exercises and spending time in port at San Diego and San Pedro. Clearing San Diego on 30 November, she steamed northward for the Mare Island Navy Yard. Reaching on 2 December, she docked and underwent maintenance through the holiday season as she had done in the preceding year.
Clearing the yard on 11 January 1913, Whipple touched at Sausalito (11-12 January) in advance of steaming out of San Francisco Bay. Continuing her return to her homeport, she arrived at San Diego the following day. Underway again on 19 January, she made a visit to Santa Barbara (20–24 January), before returning to San Diego later that same day. The ship would spend the following seven weeks in port.
Whipple went to sea on 17 March 1913, and conducted training while en route to San Pedro, where she arrived on 23 March. Remain there until 4 April, she returned to San Diego the following day. She then spent the following weeks (2 May–9 June) cruising Californian waters before entering the Mare Island Navy Yard (4–29 June). After clearing, she steamed to Santa Barbara (1–7 July) en route to San Diego via Long Beach, Calif. (7–15 July). With her final leg of her transit, she stood in to San Diego on the 16th.
Whipple got underway and shifted to San Pedro on 1 August 1913. Arriving the same day, she remained there until the 20th, when she returned to San Diego. The destroyer remained in port for about six weeks before getting underway again on 7 October for San Pedro. She arrived that same day and then returned to San Diego on the 10th. After a week in port, she stood out on 17 October, steaming northward for San Francisco. Reaching on 19 October. After eight days in port, she cleared on 27 October and raised San Diego on the 29th. Over the following month, she then alternated times in port between San Diego and San Pedro (3 November–3 December) before departing San Diego on 3 December and steaming in to the yard at Mare Island on 5 December. After a time in the yard she shifted to Sausalito for the New Year’s holidays (29 December–2 January 1914) before re-entering Mare Island (2–10 January).
After clearing the Mare Island Navy Yard, a second time, she passed out through the Golden Gate and steaming via Santa Barbara (11–14 January 1914) made her return to her homeport at San Diego on the 15th. As she had done during the preceding autumn, the destroyer rotated her time in port between San Diego and San Pedro (9 February–23 April) conducting training while underway between the bases.
With Mexico in the throes of revolution and civil strife, Whipple cleared San Diego on 23 April and steamed southward for Mexico’s Pacific coast. Standing ready to protect American lives and property, she conducted patrols and made port visits at Mazatlan, La Paz, and Manzanillo (25 April–13 July). Having stood out from La Paz on 13 July, she made her return to San Diego on the 17th. After spending the night in port, she was again underway on 18 July, steaming northward for much needed maintenance at the mare Island Navy Yard. Entering the yard on 20 July, she remained there undergoing overhaul to 2 September. Clearing that day, she returned to San Diego, the following day and spent time in port there until 12 November. She shifted to San Pedro (12 November–2 December) before returning to San Diego on the 2nd to remain in port through the Christmas and New Year’s holidays.
Whipple raised steam and went to sea on 11 January 1915 and again alternated times in port at San Diego and San Pedro (11 January–17 March). Standing out from San Diego on St. Patrick’s Day, she steamed north to San Francisco. Arriving on 19 March, she remained in port until 30 March when she shifted across the bay and entered the Mare Island Navy Yard. During this time, she was detached from the Torpedo Flotilla, Pacific Fleet, and transferred to the Reserve Torpedo Division, Torpedo Flotilla, Pacific Fleet, on 26 April 1915. While in reserve status, the destroyer cleared Mare Island on 21 May and after a time at San Pedro (22 May–9 June), arrived at San Diego later on the 9th. Remaining in port until 2 July, she proceeded northward, visiting San Pedro (2–3 July) and San Francisco en route to re-entering the Mare Island Navy Yard on 8 July.
Whipple was detached from the Reserve Torpedo Flotilla, Pacific Fleet and re-commissioned at Mare Island on 13 July 1915, Ens. James T. Alexander in command. That same day she was also attached to the 1st Division, Torpedo Flotilla, Pacific Fleet. The following day, she cleared the yard and after touching at San Francisco (14–15 July) steamed north to Alaska. Proceeding via Bremerton (22–29 July), she steamed into Sitka (3–12 August). Then cruising Alaskan waters, she traversed Cross Sound (13 August) en route to Juneau (16–22 August). Underway again via Sitka (22 August) and Juneau (31 August–3 September) she touched at Vancouver, British Columbia (6 September), before steaming back in to Bremerton the following day. Clearing Bremerton on 18 September, she steamed directly to mare Island and entered the yard there on 21 September. With her yard work complete, she cleared on 28 October and proceeded to San Pedro (29 October–10 November) before returning to San Diego on the 10th.
Whipple was again ordered to Mexico in response to civil unrest in that country. Departing San Diego on 4 December 1915, she steamed south to patrol the Mexican coast and making port calls at Topolobampo (7–11 December), Guaymas (12 December–25 January 1916) and La Paz (27 January) before making her return to the U.S. at San Diego on 30 January. En route to Mare Island that same day, she entered the yard (1–19 February). After briefly touching at Sausalito (19 February), she made her return to San Diego on the 22nd. Over the succeeding two months, she operated locally along the California coast alternating time in port at San Pedro and San Diego. Clearing the latter on 22 April, she steamed south to Mazatlan (28-29 April) before returning to San Diego on the 29th. Standing out from her homeport on 2 May, she proceeded northward to Mare Island and entering the yard on 4 May to undergo maintenance until 21 June. Having cleared the yard at the completion of her overhaul, she steamed to San Diego (22 June) before continuing southward for Mexico.
Whipple reached La Paz (24 June–2 July 1916) in advance of continuing on to Guaymas (7 July). In succeeding weeks to the month’s end, she steamed between Guaymas and La Paz in order to protect U.S. interests amidst the chaos of the Mexican Revolution. Having cleared the Mexican coast on 31 July, she made her return to San Diego, two days later on 2 August. Remaining in port until the 11th, the destroyer was again underway southward to further cruise Mexican waters and “show the flag” at Mazatlan, La Paz, and Topolobampo into September. Departing La Paz on 12 September, she returned to San Diego on the 14th, then spent the next three weeks cruising southern California waters and spending time in port at San Pedro and San Diego (19 September–11 October). Two weeks later, on 25 October, Whipple was placed in reserve commission at San Diego. While in this reserve status, the ship departed San Diego on 3 November and entered the Mare Island Navy Yard the following day. She would remain there into 1917.
Relations between the U.S. and Imperial Germany had become strained pursuant to the latter’s resumption of its unrestricted submarine warfare campaign on 1 February 1917. Whipple, having spent the holiday season at Mare Island cleared the yard on 2 February 1917 and steamed via San Luis Obispo, Calif. (3–4 February) and San Pedro (4–5 February) to a return to San Diego on 5 February. While in port, Whipple was again placed into full commission on 19 February, Lt. Harry J. Abbett in command.
With the potential for war, Whipple, Truxtun (Destroyer No. 14), and Stewart (Destroyer No. 13) were dispatched to the Panama Canal Zone (C.Z.), Departing San Diego on 21 February, they proceeded via Acapulco (26–27 February), and reached Balboa, C.Z. on 4 March. Just after their arrival, the destroyers conducted experiments of simultaneously transiting the Panama Canal locks that same day. Whipple then spent the ensuing weeks transiting the canal and patrolling the adjacent approaches to the Pacific entrance.
The U.S. declared war on Germany and entered World War I as an Associated Power on 6 April, With the declaration of war, Whipple continued patrolling the Pacific approaches to the Panama Canal. Less, than two weeks later, on 15 April, she transited the Panama Canal to relieve Stewart on the patrol of the approaches to the canal’s Atlantic entrance. Three days later, she passed back through the canal to Balboa and resumed her Pacific patrol duties. She returned to Cristóbal, C.Z. on 23 April and then back to Balboa on 30 April., where she continued her Pacific patrols until entering the yard at Balboa for repairs (28 May–2 June). Upon clearing the yard, she resumed her Pacific patrol duties until 5 July. That same day, she again transited the canal and arrived at Cristóbal followed by Stewart, Preble (Destroyer No. 12), and Truxtun.
The destroyers then departed that same day, 5 July 1917, bound for Hampton Roads (Base No. 3). En route they paused at Guantánamo on 8 July, before reaching the Norfolk Navy Yard and mooring on 13 July. She departed on 16 July, steaming up the York River to Yorktown (Base No. 2) and assuming patrol duties there on the 18th. The next day she received orders dispatching her to League Island. Departing that same day, she arrived on 20 July, and the next day docked to undergo refit and preparations for distant service until 13 August. With her yard work completed, she reported to Commander in Chief, Atlantic Fleet, that same day.
Whipple, upon her arrival, received orders dispatching her to Block Island, R.I. Having departed, she transited via Bermuda and reached her initial destination in advance of continuing on to Base No. 10 at Port Jefferson, N.Y. on 19 August 1917. She then proceeded to the New York Navy Yard, Brooklyn, N.Y. on the 22nd, for a brief overhaul. Upon clearing the yard on 24 August, she departed for Philadelphia and stood in to the Navy Yard the next day. She then moved to Lewes, Del. on 28 August, from whence she steamed eastward on 31 August. En route to Ponta Delgada, Azores (Base No. 13), she transited via Bermuda (Base No. 24) and arrived there on 3 September. While in the harbor, she dragged her anchor in the wind and grounded, effectively closing the harbor. The next day she was extricated, but the resulting damage necessitated her undergoing repairs until 8 September. Clearing the yard, she steamed east for Ponta Delgada in company with Truxtun and Wheeling (Gunboat No. 14). All arrived without incident at Base No. 13 on 17 September.
Whipple assumed escort duties, convoying ships between the Azores and the Madeira Islands for the next three months. She departed under orders on 1 December 1917, bound for a new assignment at Gibraltar (Base No. 9). Upon her arrival on 6 December, however, she was again reassigned. Departing with Truxtun at 2:00 p.m. on 9 December, the destroyers reached their new station at Brest, France (Base No. 7) on 15 December. Antisubmarine patrols and convoy escort duties between Brest, Quiberon Bay, and La Pallice, France, occupied Whipple through the early spring of 1918. During this time the destroyer conducted target practice with Truxtun on 27 January 1918, in accordance with Commander, Patrol Forces orders.
Whipple and her compatriots were escorting a convoy in toward Quiberon Bay, France on 17 April 1918. Nearing their destination and steaming quietly in smooth seas during a dark and cloudy night, the skies suddenly lit up with the brilliance of the exploding Florence H. Just prior to the detonation at 10:45 p.m., a crewmember on the munition ship’s bridge was seen signaling with a searchlight. An instant later, the vessel burst into flames with a thunderous roar. Blazing like a torch, she rose a hundred feet into the air. In ten minutes, she had split amidships and was gone five minutes hence. While smoke and flames had prevented the surrounding ships of the convoy from seeing what had occurred, survivors later reported that there was an explosion in the No. 2 hatch. It lifted the deck and blew out the ship's starboard side. John B. Watson, her chief engineer, said, “She just burned up and melted in about twenty minutes." A witness to the blast saw the flash and remarked, “Not a living soul will get off that ship.” That, however, was not to be the case.
While the waters surrounding the doomed ship were covered with flaming powder cases and wreckage, the escorting vessels immediately started for the stricken ship. As they got near, the ammunition on the deck of Florence H. began to explode. Then the rounds in her loaded guns cooked off. The powder cases were so thickly packed that they spread to leeward like enormous rafts. Then exploding ammunition shot flame and gas ten to twenty feet into the air. To venture into that sea of fire seemed to invite almost certain destruction rendering rescue hopeless.
Yet, Stewart, Whipple, and Truxtun, laden with depth charges, sped into the maelstrom. As Stewart drew near the doomed ship, the escort’s Senior Officer Present (SOP) signaled her to be careful. While it hardly seemed possible that any of Florence H.'s crew had escaped, Lt. Cmdr. Harvey S. Haislip, Stewart’s commanding officer, heard cries in the water. Despite risking his ship and his crew, Haislip did not waiver, plowing through the blazing wreckage. Stewart led the way. Whipple and Truxtun followed. Pushing through the bursting casks and burning boxes, they cleared a path for the escorting wooden yachts, Wanderer (S. P. 132), Sultana (S. P. 134); Christabel (S.P 162), and Corona (S. P. 813).
As flames lit up the night so that it appeared to be daytime, sailors threw out lines and jumped overboard to hold up blinded and drowning men. Lifeboats deployed from a half dozen ships and rescuers rowed or swam to survivors seen clinging to flotsam. All the responding vessels performed splendidly, rescuing 32 of the 77 men on board Florence H. For their actions more than a dozen officers and fifty enlisted men received commendation. Secretary of the Navy Josephus Daniels, in Our Navy at War remarked, “Had it not been for the heroic work of these men of the Navy, not one would have escaped alive.”
Whipple carried out her routine wartime patrol duties after the Florence H. sinking. Though she was never credited with engaging a German U-boat, the destroyer did twice cooperate with Allied aircraft to attack what was believed to be enemy submarines. An Allied aircraft dropped a white Very light on 27 August, prompting Whipple to move to full speed ahead. She dropped a depth charge, but with no result.
Just over a week later, on 5 September 1918, Whipple encountered a submarine on her starboard bow. With the rudder over hard right, she nearly rammed the “target” and dropped depth charges. A torpedo was reportedly fired from the direction of the suspected submarine wake, but it missed as the destroyer maneuvered to port. The officer of the deck reported seeing a submarine conning tower. While the destroyer’s action report claimed that, “It seems most probable that the fourth depth charge damaged the submarine,” there was, however, no confirmation.
Whipple was engaged in escorting a 22-ship convoy in company with the yachts Christabel (S. P. 162), Rambler (S. P. 211), and Utowana (S. P. 951) and two French submarine chasers between Brest and La Pallice on 16 September 1918. Suddenly, at 5:54 p.m., the leading vessel of the convoy’s right column, British steamer Philomel suffered an explosion, victim of either a mine or torpedo from UB-88 (Kapitänleutnant Reinhard von Rabenau commanding). Whipple immediately went to general quarters and deployed at full speed, dropping six depth charges. Rambler also maneuvered in response and dropped two depth charges. Having turned for shallower water the British steamer sank at 6:15 p.m. Rambler picked up all of the sunken ship’s 41 crewmen and carried them in to L'Orient, France, the following day. Whipple rejoined the convoy and resumed her escort duties, conveying it into port with no further losses.
While off the French coast, on 22 October 1918, an aircraft dropped aerial bombs off the destroyer’s port bow, prompting Whipple, in company with a French torpedo boat, to investigate further. Upon arriving at the bombing location, she dropped four depth charges, again with no positive results.
Whipple continued her convoy and antisubmarine patrolling missions based from Brest through the Armistice of 11 November 1918. The destroyer departed the French coast in company with Stewart and Flusser (Destroyer No. 20) on 9 December. Steaming westward for a return to home, she touched at Ponta Delgada (13–19 December) and Bermuda [Base No. 24] (28 December–1 January 1919). During her time at Bermuda, she again grounded in St. George’s Bay prompting the convening of a board of inquiry on board Tallahassee (Monitor No. 9). Despite this, she cleared the British Crown colony on New Year’s Day and ascended the Delaware River and stood in to the Philadelphia Navy Yard on 3 January.
Whipple was decommissioned at the Philadelphia Navy Yard on 7 July 1919, and her name was stricken from the Navy list on 15 September. On 3 January 1920, Joseph G. Hitner, of Philadelphia, purchased the ship for scrapping.
The ship, however, was sold on 1 August 1922 to Harry Nevelson for $16,000. She was to be converted, along with the decommissioned Truxtun and Worden (Destroyer No. 16), into a motor fruit carrier for service between the United States and Central America. After serving the Snyder Banana Co., she transferred to the Southern Banana Co. before becoming part of the Standard Fruit enterprise through the American Fruit and Steamship Co., in 1925. Whipple was subsequently placed under Nicaraguan registry based at Bluefields. She was later transferred to the Bahama Shipping Co., Ltd. and placed in service between Jacksonville, Fla., and Cuba while still under Nicaraguan registry. The ship continued to operate through World War II and was finally scrapped in 1956.
|Commanding Officers||Dates of Command|
|Lt. Jehu V. Chase||17 February 1903–5 September 1905|
|Lt. Edward C. Woods||16 July 1906–8 October 1907|
|Lt. Hutchinson I. Cone||8 October 1907–1 June 1908|
|Lt. John G. Church||1 June 1908–12 September 1911|
|Lt. Rufus F. Zogbaum||12 September 1911–21 December 1911|
|Ens. Charles L. Best||21 December 1911–12 January 1912|
|Lt. Ross S. Culp||12 January 1912–20 June 1912|
|Lt. Martin K. Metcalf||20 June 1912–26 April 1915|
|Ens. James T. Alexander||26 April 1915–24 July 1915|
|Lt. (j.g.) Francis D. Pryor||24 July 1915–6 March 1916|
|Lt. (j.g) James T. Alexander||6 March 1916–26 March 1916|
|Lt. Harry J. Abbett||26 March 1916–19 August 1918|
|Lt. Robert M. Doyle, Jr.||19 August 1918–7 July 1919|
Christopher B. Havern Sr.
25 February 2019