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Naval History and Heritage Command

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  • Boats-Ships--Destroyer
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Young I (Destroyer No. 312)

1920-1923 

The first Young (DD-312) was named for Capt. John Young, the second (DD-580) was named for Rear Adm. Lucien Young. 

John Young -- born circa 1740 -- began his seafaring career at an early age in the colonial merchant marine and, at the start of the War for Independence from Greatr Britain, was commissioned 23rd on the list of captains in the Continental Navy. On 20 September 1776, the Continental Congress directed Young to take the sloop-of-war Independence to Martinique to protect American mercantile shipping in the West Indies. Collaterally, Independence was to raid British shipping whenever the opportunity arose.

On 5 July 1777, Young was ordered to Nantes, France, and subsequently arrived at Lorient with two prizes. On 17 February 1778, while in French waters, he sailed through the French Fleet, saluting that nation's government with a 13-gun salute. In return he received a nine-gun salute, one of the earliest salutes rendered by the French government to the fledgling American government. 

Young returned to America in the spring of 1778 and commanded, in succession, two Pennsylvania privateers, Buckskin and Impertinent, before he was given command of the sloop-of-war Saratoga -- then fitting out at Philadelphia, Pa. -- in May 1780. Young took her to sea on 13 August 1780 and, in the course of the ship's first cruise, captured one prize before she returned to port for repairs and alterations.

Subsequent cruises proved more successful, as Young commanded Saratoga on three more sweeps at sea in which he took a total of eight more prizes. Young proved himself daring and resourceful. On one occasion, he took Saratoga between two British ships and captured both of his adversaries. Largely as a result of his dedication and emphasis on training, Saratoga compiled a distinguished, but altogether brief, record before her untimely -- and still unexplained -- loss.

Saratoga set sail from Cap Francais, in what is now the Dominican Republic, on 15 March 1781. After taking a prize three days later, the sloop-of-war became separated from her later that day when a strong gale swept through the area, the high winds nearly swamping the prize commanded by Midshipman Penfield. After the storm passed by, Saratoga was nowhere to be seen, having vanished without a trace.

I

(DD-312: displacement 1,190; length 314'5"; beam 31'8"; draft 9'3" (mean); speed 35.0 knots; complement 95; armament 4 4-inch, 1 3-inch, 12 21-inch torpedo tubes; class Clemson)

The first Young  (Destroyer No. 312) was laid down on 28 January 1919 at San Francisco, Calif., by the Union Iron Works Plant of the Bethlehem Shipbuilding Corp.; launched on 8 May 1919; sponsored by Mrs. John R. Nolan; designated DD-312 on 17 July 1920; and commissioned on 29 November 1920, Lt. Herbert J. Ray in command.

Young fitted out at the Mare Island Navy Yard into December. Assigned to Division 34, Squadron 2, Pacific Fleet Destroyer Force, the destroyer remained inactive in the San Diego area through the end of 1921. Shortages-in both personnel and funds-meant curtailed and reduced operations for the large number of destroyers that the Navy found itself with in the period immediately following World War I. The "rotating reserve" svstem kept the ships and their comparatively skeleton crews occupied. One third of a unit would lie alongside a pier, manned by only a bare maintenance crew; one third of the ships would lie in the stream at San Diego harbor in a half-manned status; while the last third would be fully manned but would remain in harbor most of the time. The destroyers were moved from one status to the other periodically; and, in spite of the reduced-manning and operations schedule, the ships maintained a high state of readiness.

Young departed San Diego on 14 January 1922, bound for Bremerton, Wash., and, proceeding via San Francisco, Calif., reached the Puget Sound Navy Yard on the 18th. Overhauled at Puget Sound, the destroyer departed the yard on 3 April and arrived at her home port, San Diego, on the 8th. The remainder of the year passed fairly uneventfully, with the destroyer continuing her largely anchored existence in San Diego harbor. However, she did fire short-range battle practices, operated briefly off the Mexican Coronados Islands, and recovered torpedoes for Idaho (BB-42) during the autumn of the year 1922.

The in-port routine changed the following year, when Young departed San Diego on 6 February 1923 and headed for Panama. En route, she stopped briefly at Magdalena Bay-the traditional target practice grounds for the Pacific Fleet-and fueled from Cuyama (AO-3) before proceeding on south to the Pacific side of the Panama Canal Zone.

Young participated in Fleet Problem I over the ensuing weeks. In this, the first Fleet Problem held by the United States Navy, the Battle Fleet was pitted against the Scouting Fleet-the later augmented by a division of battleships. During the war games, Young performed antisubmarine screening for the dreadnoughts of the Battle Fleet and, when the scenario of exercises called for it, dashed in and made simulated torpedo attacks on the "enemy" battlewagons of the augmented Scouting Fleet. Upon completion of one phase of the exercises, she was present in Panama Bay when Secretary of the Navy Edwin Denby, accompanied by a party of congressmen embarked in the transport Henderson (AP-1), reviewed the Fleet on 14 March.

Young later departed Panamanian waters on 31 March 1923 and arrived back at San Diego on 11 April. She remained there until 25 June, when she headed north. She called at San Francisco from the 27th to the 29th and arrived at Tacoma, Wash., on 2 July. Two days later, in keeping with the occasion, Young sent her landing force ashore to march in Tacoma's Independence Day parade.

After shifting to Seattle, Young underwent a period of upkeep alongside Melville (AD-2) between 16 July and 17 August 1923. During that time, on 23 July, President Warren G. Harding, on a cruise to Alaska in Henderson, reviewed the Fleet, one of his last official acts before his death a short time later.

After spending a few days at Lake Washington following her upkeep period alongside Melville, Young underwent a brief yard period at the Puget Sound Navy Yard, Bremerton, Wash., before she sailed south, escorting Battle Division 4 to San Francisco Bay at the end of August. En route, Young practiced torpedo attacks through smoke screens as part of the slate of tactical exercises.

Following a brief period moored at Pier 15, San Francisco, Division 11 got underway to return to San Diego on the morning of 8 September 1923. As the ships made passage down the California coast, they conducted tactical and gunnery exercises in the course of what was also a competitive speed run of 20 knots. Ultimately, when the weather worsened, the ships formed column on the squadron leader, Delphy (DD-261). Unfortunately, through an error in navigation, the column swung east at about 2100, unaware of the danger that lurked in the fog-shrouded reefs dead ahead of them.

At 2105, Delphy --  still steaming at 20 knots -- ran hard aground off Padernales Point, followed, in succession, by the other ships steaming in follow-the-leader fashion. Only quick action by the ships farthest astern prevented the total loss of the entire group.

Young, however, became one of the casualties. Her hull torn by a jagged pinnacle, she swiftly capsized, heeling over on her starboard side within a minute and a half, trapping many of her engine and fire room people below. Lt. Cmdr. William L. Calhoun, Young's commanding officer, knew that there was no time to launch boats or rafts as the ship's list increased alarmingly following the grounding. Calhoun accordingly passed the word, through his executive officer, Lt. E. C. Herzinger, and Chief Boatswain's Mate Arthur Peterson, to make for the port side, to stick with the ship, and to not jump.

While the survivors clung tenaciously to their precarious, oily, surf-battered refuge, Boatswain's Mate Peterson proposed to swim 100 yards to a rocky outcropping to the eastward known as Bridge Rock. Before he could do so, however, Chauncey (DD-296) providentially grounded between Young and Bridge Rock, shortening the escape route considerably. The two ships lay about 75 yards apart.

At that juncture, Peterson unhesitatingly risked his life, diving into the swirling sea and swimming through the tumbling surf with a line to the nearby Chauncey --  also aground but in a far better predicament since she had remained on a comparatively even keel. Eager hands from Chauncey hauled Peterson aboard and made the line fast. Soon, a seven-man life raft from the sistership was on its way to Young as a makeshift ferry. The raft ultimately made 11 trips bringing the 70 Young survivors to safety. By 2330, the last men of the crew were on board Chauncey; at that point, Lt. Cmdr. Calhoun and Lt. Herzinger (the latter having returned to the ship after having been in the first raft across) left Young's battered hull.

In the subsequent investigation of the "Point Honda Disaster" the Board of Investigation commended Lt. Cmdr. Calhoun for his "coolness, intelligence, and seamanlike ability" that was directly responsible for the "greatly reduced loss of life." The Board also cited Boatswain's Mate Peterson for his "extraordinary heroism" in swimming through the turbulent seas with a line to Chauncey; Lt. Herzinger drew praise for his "especially meritorious conduct" in helping to save the majority of the ship's crew.

Rear Adm. Sumner E. W. Kittelle, Commander, Destroyer Squadrons, subsequently cited Lt. Cmdr. Calhoun's display of leadership and personality that saved "three-quarters of the crew of the Young" and Lt. Herzinger for his "Coolness and great assistance in the face of grave danger." Also commended by the admiral was Fireman First Class J. T. Scott, who attempted to close off the master oil valve to prevent a boiler explosion, volunteering to go below to the fireroom and go below the floor plates. The water, rapidly rising through the gashes in the ship's hull, however, prevented Scott from completing the task. He survived.

Decommissioned on 26 October 1923, Young was stricken from the Navy list on 20 November 1923 and ordered sold as a hulk.

Robert J. Cressman 

17 January 2018 

Published: Wed Jan 17 21:03:25 EST 2018