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Fletcher Class Facts

The USS BUSH was a Fletcher class destroyer. 175 Fletcher class destroyers were commissioned from June 1942 through February 1945. During this era, no other class of destroyer had more ships built. Though built with the Pacific in mind, Fletchers also served in the Atlantic theater. Nineteen Fletchers were lost during World War II.

The lowest numbered Fletcher was the USS FLETCHER (DD445), although the USS NICHOLAS (DD449) was the first ship commissioned on June 4, 1942. The USS WILEY (DD597), commissioned February 22, 1945, was the last Fletcher put into service. The USS ROOKS (DD804) had the highest number.

Fletchers were easily identifiable, yet many minor differences existed between individual ships. This was particularly true when contrasting early Fletchers with those produced late in the war. A handful early Fletchers were even designed to operate a OS2N Kingfisher float airplane. Three were actually built in this manner, but the need for a float plane was not great. All of these ships were refitted to a more standard configuration. The USS PRINGLE (DD477) was one of the ships that carried a float plane for a brief time. The PRINGLE (which is noted in some of the BUSH deck logs) was lost off Okinawa shortly after the BUSH was sunk.

Because of the significant threat of attack by Japanese aircraft, some Fletchers were refitted late in the war with more anti-aircraft capability. In these cases, the forward torpedo tubes were removed. The Twin-40MM guns on either side of the aft smoke stack were also removed. A new Quad-40MM anti-aircraft gun mount was placed on both the port and starboard side, between the two smoke stacks. This gave the ship four additional 40MM gun barrels. The BUSH was not a ship that received this refit.

Noted below are some facts about Fletcher class destroyers, and are believed consistent with those of the USS BUSH. The editor's comments have been added in some cases to provide a more realistic view of actual Fletcher class details (at least as they related to the BUSH).

Length: About 377 feet
Beam: Almost 40 feet wide at the widest point
Horsepower: About 60,000, from two turbine engines operating two separate propeller shafts. The shaft and propeller is usually called a "screw". Fletcher class ships had two "screws". The horsepower acronym was "shp", or shaft horsepower.
Displacement: Design called for about 2100 tons, but with wartime armament additions, a more accurate figure was closer to 2800 tons.
Top Speed 35 to 37 knots, though with wartime additions and wear & tear, top speed was usually something less. In only one instance, during the Admiralty Island Invasion, did the BUSH deck logs reflect a speed of 35 knots. As BUSH raced back to Pearl Harbor on July 23, 1944 after the shell explosion killed and wounded a number of sailors, the deck logs show a top speed of 33 knots.
Crusing Range: About 4800 nautical miles at 15 knots. With added tonage for wartime needs, actual range was likely less.
Compliment: Various references noted a crew size (including officers and enlisted personnel) of 240 to 273 men. However, during World War II the number of men aboard ship was often higher. At the time the BUSH was sunk, about 335 men were aboard, including the Destroyer Division Commander, Division staff, and a special Fighter Direction Team.
5 Inch Guns: Five single barrel gun mounts. Each mount was fully enclosed and could be positioned and fired automatically, or manually if needed. These guns could be used to attack air, shore or surface targets. They could hurl a 54 lb. shell at a surface target up 18,000 yards (over 10 miles), while its maximum aerial range was over 6 miles. During general quarters, each mount contained at least nine men. A small opening existed on the floor at the back of the mount so that hot shell casings could be pitched to the deck after firing in order to make room for the next projectile and powder casing. Manned positions within the 5-inch gun mount included the Trainer, Pointer, Fuseman, Sightman, Shellman, Gun Captain, Powderman, Spademan, and Hot Shellman. Information on jobs within the mount is based on one ex-Hot Shellman's best recollection. It was crowded!
40MM: Five twin 40MM anti-aircraft gun mounts were located on the ship. Two were just forward and below the bridge. Two were on the port and starboard side of the aft smoke stack. And one was located between the #3 and #4 5 inch guns. Maximum firing range was significantly less than the 5-inch guns, and varied with the type of ammunition used. Typically, their most effective firing range was about 2,800 yards. These guns were housed in open gun tubs. The maximum firing rate was about 160 rounds per minute. Typical gun crew consisted of a gun captain, trainer, pointer, and four loaders. Radar assisted figther direction helped to automatically train and fire this gun, though it could be operated manually, if needed. After the first hit on the BUSH April 6, 1945, the forward 40MM's were operated in manually.
20MM: Seven single barrel 20MM anti-aircraft guns, manually operated, each capable of firing up to 450 rounds per minute. Two 20MM's were positioned on the port side of the ship, just aft of the rear smoke stacks on the main deck. Another two 20MM's were in the same position on the starboard side of the main deck. The final three 20MM's guns were on the main deck near the depth charges on the fantail (rear of ship). Ammunition used included tracer rounds. The bright light from tracer fire helped the gunman see the direction of fire. When enemy planes were close enough for these guns to be effective, the adrenalin was flowing. These guns were sometimes called "revenge guns", the inference being the enemy had gotten close enough to have done damage.
Torpedo: Two mounts, with five torpedos each. Torpedos had a 21 inch diameter and held about 500 pounds of explosives.
Depth Charges: Two racks of eight 600 pound depth charges were located on each side of the fantail. Depth charges were used to attack enemy submarines. Fletchers were equipped with sonar equipment to detect submarines. Sonarmen were sometimes called "ping jockeys" because of the pinging sound made by sonar equipment monitoring for submarines.
K-Guns: Three K-Guns were located on each side of the main deck near the #4 five inch guns (just aft of the 20MM guns). Each K-Gun was armed with a 300 pound depth charge that could be launched in the air away from the ship. Four additional 300 pound depth charges were adjacent to each K-Gun.
Smoke Generators: On the fantail, near the 600 pound depth charges, were smoke screen generators. These devices could be used to create a thick cloud of smoke. Tanks feeding the smoke screen generators were filled with FS liquid, a compound of sulphur trioxide and chlorsulphonic acid. This substance reacts immediately when mixed with water, and the cloud created can be toxic if inhaled consistently. Destoyers, at high speed, could lay down a thick screen of smoke to screen a task force or convoy, making it harder for enemy ships to track and target allied ships.

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