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USS Cassin, USS Downes

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USS Cassin and Downes after Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor

Damaged destroyers USS Cassin (DD-372) and USS Downes (DD-375)

The USS Cassin and USS Downes were US Navy destroyers that had been set on blocks in Number one drydock in Pearl Harbor, ahead of the battleship USS Pennsylvania.

The Cassin and Downes were in drydock being modernized with the addition of thicker outer hull plates and improved breech locks for their five inch guns. When the Japanese attacked, neither ship could fire the five inch guns and the machine guns were stowed in lockers.

The crews frantically assembled the machine guns and began firing upon Japanese aircraft, while the 5 inch gun crews hastily loaded loose machine gun bullets into belts to keep the machine guns firing. Other crew members recovered breech locks for the five inch guns from on shore and subsequently the five inch guns were also able to fire upon the attackers. When electrical power from the dry dock was cut, ammunition had to be brought up from the magazines by hand and in the dark or with flash lights.

“For about an hour the ships [the destroyers Cassin and Downes] were protected by a huge curtain of AA fire which was raised by the battleship Pennsylvania...”, United States Destroyer Operations in World War II, (p47). The Pennsylvania had become a target of the Japanese bombers, but several of the intended bombs hit the two destroyers just ahead of her.

According to the action report, “at 0827 the dive bombers dropped an incendiary bomb, which hit in the drydock between the Cassin and Downes about abreast of gun No. 4. Two men were killed outright. Fire enveloped the after part of the ship instantaneously.”


USS Downes wreck after Pearl Harbor attack

Heroic efforts to control the raging fires were unsuccessful and soon the fires forced the crews to abandon both ships. Continued fire fighting efforts from the dry dock prevented the depth charges from exploding.


USS Cassin capsized

The photo on the left shows the wreckage of the USS Downes after the attack. The number 1 turret is badly burned and the gun deck on the number 2 turret appears warped from the heat.

Photo to the right shows the USS Cassin capsized into the Downes as viewed from the stern. The drydocks were flooded to prevent the blocking from igniting and to cool the burning ships, decreasing the possibility of the magazines exploding.


Initial evaluations after the attack listed both destroyers as a total loss, but within two and one half years both destroyers were repaired and placed back into service.


The USS Cassin and USS Downes were involved in support and screening rolls in various campaigns in the Pacific for the duration of WWII.


"Cassin and Downes: Cassin was struck by one bomb and Downes by two (probably 500 pounds). These vessels were in drydock No. 1 ahead of the Pennsylvania. One bomb explosion aft between the two vessels apparently knocked the Cassin partly off the drydock blocking and caused her to fall over on the Downes when the dock was being flooded during the raid. This caused a serious structural failure amidships and considerable local damage in way of the bridge.


The torpedo warheads in the starboard tube of the Downes were set off and blew out the main deck and starboard side of the vessel in that area. This caused some damage to boilers and engines. A serious oil fire followed the explosion and caused extensive damage to the hull of both vessels. Fragments and explosions have caused over 200 holes in the hull of the Cassin and probably well over 400 in the hull of the Downes.


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Most of the machinery of both ships has been removed for examination and re-conditioning, and it now appears that the machinery of the Cassin is 98% good and the Downes about 95% good. Permanent and temporary repairs have been made on the hull of the Cassin to permit her re-floating about February 5, and similar work is proceeding on the Downes.

At present it appears inadvisable to count on the recommissioning of these two vessels as first-line destroyers, but it is likely that repairs can be effected within two to four months which will make the vessels entirely suitable for escort vessels, thus releasing two first-line destroyers from this duty. The Navy Yard, Pearl Harbor, T.H., is working up sketch plans covering suitable arrangements for deck houses, bridge, armament, etc., adequate for an escort vessel. it is generally believed that although the hull of the vessels have been considerably weakened, they will be entirely adequate to carry the considerable reduced load in armament and other topside weights required for an escort vessel." - Damage report USS Cassin, USS Downes Enclosure C to CINCPAC action report Serial 0479 February 15, 1942


US Navy photographs.


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