US DESTROYER ESCORTS OF WORLD WAR II

Reviewed by: RWP

Despite the pre-war re-armament programmes, the Royal Navy was deficient of “fast, long-endurance ships, capable of making the Atlantic crossing without refuelling and having the ability to catch and destroy U-boats” (Roskill). In June 1941 the British Government requested the construction in the USA of 100 destroyer escorts under Lend/Lease arrangements. More were requisitioned later. The required British characteristics matched that of the US destroyer escort design that the Chief of Naval Operations had recommended not to be built for his navy owing to fears of insufficient building slips prejudicing their own destroyer construction programme. President Roosevelt authorised their construction and a tranche of 50 such ships commenced in Navy Yards in August 1941. Over the duration of the war a total of 1,005 such ships were ordered and over half that number constructed. There are nine pages of extremely informative detail on their design, construction and development. Destroyer escorts comprised six ‘classes’ although their differences were minimal: differing power plants, weapon fits or in length or minor superstructure changes. The priority was for rapid construction via pre-fabrication. The various classes, and the number built were Evarts (105), Buckley (152), Cannon(76), Edsall (85), Rudderow (81), and John C Butler (74). (The Royal Navy obtained 32 Evarts and 46 Buckley’s and named them Captain class frigates).

It is this section that disappoints. Other than a list of 13 individual class characteristics no other data is provided. A list of the individual ship names and their respective eventual demise is absent: surely a reasonable expectation that such be present by potential purchasers when judged against the title? Some destroyer escorts were modified during build or converted, as fast attack transports, radar pickets, mobile power generator stations or inshore fire support ships.  Book strong points are the numerous photographs, the seven coloured plates with explanatory texts concerning a specific ship and a particular event. The illustrators’ artwork is impressive. I now know that the many ships converted to fast attack transports that became the Crosley and Charles Lawrence classes were all painted in ‘Measure 31 ‘Green Dragon’ camouflage’. Were it not for the lacuna of missing data identified above, this book, in the words of Marlon Brando in On the Waterfront, ‘could have been a contender’ as a useful reference work.