The Fletcher-class destroyer was a class of destroyers that were used extensively by the United States Navy during World War II. 175 were produced, more than any other class, and they were built by shipyards across the United States.



USS Heywood L. Edwards.

Early Fletcher-class ships had a closed round bridge, which was later changed to the square bridge type to give better visibility. During their service life, many units underwent various armament conversions to increase their anti-aircraft and anti-submarine capabilities. These were experimentally fitted with a catapult, and actually handled an OS2U Kingfisher.[1] All six of the catapult equipped ships came from the 1940-41 program group, and lacked the deckhouse between the Q and X turrets. Armament in these ships was reduced by the removal of a single 5 inch gun and 5 torpedo tubes.[2]


Fletcher class vessels measured 376 feet 6 inch overall in length, with a beam of 39 feet 6 inch and draught of 12 feet 6 inch. Standard displacement was 2,050 tons, rising to over 2,500 tons with full load, and complement was 353. Machinery consisted of four Babcock & Wilcox boilers feeding General Electric geared turbines. These drove two shafts producing 60,000 BHP, giving the ship a speed of 36 knots. Armament consisted of five 5 inch/38 caliber guns and ten 21 inch torpedo tubes. These were supplemented on 1940-41 program ships by six Bofors 40 mm and ten Oerlikon 20 mm weapons, and on 1942 program ships by ten 40 mm and eight 20 mm weapons.[2]


The first orders were placed in June 1940, continuing to August 1942, with all ships of this class being in commission by September 1944. Often referred to as the most successful destroyer type ever built, they were designed at a time when destroyer functions were primarily in support of the battle fleet.

The first of the US Navy's large destroyers, the size and tonnage of the Fletcher-class permitted alterations in armament, which increased their effectiveness in situations governed by the growing significance of airpower, and the emergence of the carrier task force as the main battle unit in the Pacific.[1]

119 ships[N 1] were built under the 1940-41 program,[N 2] with a further 56[N 3] built to an improved Fletcher design, with lower fire controls and flat faced bridges, under the 1942 program.[2]



  1. Includes 16 war losses and five scrapped after heavy damage. A further two were cancelled, and therefore do not count towards the 175 total.[2]
  2. 33 ships in this group built by the Bethleham Steel Company were reported to have been fitted with flat sided funnels.[2]
  3. Includes three war losses.[2]


  1. 1.0 1.1 Tamiya Model Magazine October/November 1999 edition
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 McMurtrie, Francis E. (Editor) Jane's Fighting Ships of World War 2. Tiger Books International. ISBN 0517679639 Page 281

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