Through Waters Deep – Destroyer Tour: Topside

DD Tour 1For over one hundred years, destroyers have served as versatile naval workhorses. In World War II, US destroyers escorted convoys, hunted submarines, fought surface battles, bombarded shore positions, rescued downed airmen and stranded sailors, and served as radar pickets to detect and fight incoming kamikaze flights.

In my new novel Through Waters Deep, Ens. Jim Avery serves on a fictional Gleaves-class destroyer, the USS Atwood. While researching the Waves of Freedom series, I visited two World War II destroyers, the Fletcher-class USS Cassin Young at the Charlestown Navy Yard in Boston and the Gearing-class USS Joseph P. Kennedy, Jr. at Battleship Cove in Fall River, MA. This week I’ll share photos from my tours:

Part 1—Topside: the various destroyer classes, and a bow-to-stern tour of the main deck.

Part 2—Below Decks: living quarters and working stations.

Part 3—Gunnery

WWII Destroyer Classes

When the United States entered World War II, many of the old WWI-era destroyers were still in use, dubbed “four-pipers” for their four stacks or funnels. In the 1920s, isolationism and treaty restrictions severely inhibited shipbuilding, but in the 1930s, eleven classes of destroyers were built, about a dozen a year. Each class improved on the one before, culminating with the latest pre-war classes, the Benson and Gleaves (see USS Lansdale below).

As war broke out in Europe in 1939, the United States accelerated shipbuilding and design. The first Fletcher-class destroyers were laid down in 1941 and commissioned in April 1942 (see USS Cassin Young below). The Fletchers were larger and could carry more armament and radar equipment, and 175 were built during the war. Crews loved their capability and ruggedness. Further improvements were made in the late-war classes, the Allen M. Sumner and the Gearing (see USS Joseph P. Kennedy, Jr. below). The Joseph P. Kennedy, Jr. is currently outfitted as in the Vietnam War.

Bow to Stern

Let’s scan the USS Cassin Young from bow to stern. At the bow, we can see the anchor and the union jack (the flag with white stars on a blue background). Next we see the forward 5-inch guns in front of the bridge. The bridge superstructure contains the pilothouse and the captain’s emergency cabin, with the signal deck on top of the pilothouse, then the fire director, and several types of radar antennae on the mast.

Aft of the bridge are the two funnels or stacks leading from the dual boiler (fire) rooms below, and the torpedo tubes (on the Gleaves-class destroyers, the torpedo tubes sat between the stacks). Past the quarterdeck sit the three aft 5-inch guns (there were usually only two on the prewar destroyers), antiaircraft guns, and depth-charge racks on the stern.

Topside Tour

Come aboard! Pictures are taken on both the Cassin Young and the Joseph P. Kennedy Jr. Up at the bow, we can see the anchor chains and the 5-inch guns more closely. Throughout the ship, you’ll see lines neatly coiled and hatches with ladders leading below decks.

Alongside the bridge superstructure we can see the whaleboat, ready to rescue stranded sailors or airmen, or to take men to shore for liberty. Toward the stern we can see the torpedo tubes (and my humidity-exhausted son). The Cassin Young carried ten torpedoes in this mount, while the earlier classes usually had a quintuple mount.

At the stern lie two depth charge racks, where explosives were rolled down to submarines below. Here we see the later model “teardrop” depth charge, while earlier in the war “ash can”-shaped depth charges were used. The ensign (US flag) flies proudly at the stern.

Come back Wednesday and go below decks to see how sailors lived and worked!


McComb, Dave. US Destroyers 1934-45: Pre-War Classes. Oxford: Osprey Publishing, 2010.

McComb, Dave. US Destroyers 1942-45: Wartime Classes. Oxford: Osprey Publishing, 2010.

Wiper, Steve. Warship Pictorial: USS Buchanan DD-484. Tucson, AZ: Classic Warships Publishing, 2009.

Harmon, J. Scott. U.S.S. Cassin Young (DD-793): A Fletcher Class Destroyer. Missoula, MT: Pictorial Histories Publishing Company, 1984.

Friedman, Norman. U.S. Destroyers: An Illustrated Design History. Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 1982.

Boston National Historical Park: USS Cassin Young. http://www.nps.gov/bost/learn/historyculture/usscassinyoung.htm

Destroyer History Foundation website. http://www.destroyerhistory.org

Tin Can Sailors Website. http://www.destroyers.org/index.html

54 Responses to “Through Waters Deep – Destroyer Tour: Topside”

  1. Raechel

    So cool! I really love getting to see the pictures. I’m sure I’ve said it a hundred times, but it really does add to the book!

  2. Kelly Bridgewater

    Really neat pictures! I live seeing how much research you put into making the book authentic for your readers. I appreciate it!

  3. Cari Wolfe

    I’ve toured a battleship and a submarine before. They’re really cool! So glad you took the time to do research. It makes your books so much more realistic! Thanks for sharing your pictures!

  4. Lisa Redecop

    very interesting pictures, they make me want to read the book even more.

  5. Debora Wilder

    This was a very interesting post. Thanks for sharing some of the information you learned about the different classes of destroyers. Through Waters Deep is next up on my TBR pile. I’m really looking forward to it. The apron is adorable.

      • Debora Wilder

        I’m about 50 pages into it and hooked already. I wish I had more time to read these days. But since I have more energy since finishing treatment I’m getting into going to the gym which is a very good thing.

  6. Debrah Nash

    I come from a Military family so anytime I can read and see pictures about our Military I love it! It reinforces my love for your books to see your “research” and know you try to be as accurate as you can be. With the Military Forces being decreased by the Pentagon because of budget concerns, it gives pause to think what could happen again. Thanks for sharing your pictures and keep up the good work! I have read all of your books except the new one. Can’t wait to read “Through Waters Deep”.

    • Sarah Sundin

      Thanks, Debrah! Reading and writing about this era has definitely increased my appreciation for what our military does today!

  7. Bonnie Traher

    Beautiful apron. Would love to win..

  8. Sharon Hula

    Once again I am greatful to you for taking your readers on a tour with you! I really learned so much on this Destroyer Tour, Sarah. Thanks for sharing your pics & commentary.

  9. Eli O.

    Completely by chance, the book I read to review right after Through Waters Deep happened to be about the Navy as well. I actually knew/recognized a lot of the terminology thanks to your book!

  10. judy grogan

    Thanks for all your research, so interesting. Looking forward to reading. The photos are great.

  11. Lisa Boyle

    What wonderful pictures! It reminds me of when my family visited the Battleship New Jersey last year.

    • Sarah Sundin

      How fun! I’ve seen the USS Massachusetts and the USS Iowa recently. Gigantic! And those huge guns!

  12. Pat Conway

    Thank you for all that information, Sarah. I was curious why they are called 5-inch guns?

    • Sarah Sundin

      The bore of the gun is 5 inches wide. I wondered the same thing when I first started my military research 🙂

  13. Cyd Runde

    I enjoy hearing about WWII era events, and particularly the women’s role. Your stories bring the facts to life.

  14. Mary Hirose

    That was so cool! I don’t know why I thought the entrance to the guns was below deck!

    • Sarah Sundin

      Depends on the gun and the type of ship. For some of the guns, the handling room (where they passed shells and powder cases up to the guns) was below decks.

  15. Pam Seulean

    Next Spring, I will be visiting MA with my bff and fellow Sarah Sundin-loving bookworm. During our spring break together (teachers love spring break, too!!) we always try to visit something related to books we have read. Methinks a visit to the USS JP Kennedy would be right up our alley! Thank you for all of your lovely books, Sarah.

    • Sarah Sundin

      How fun! Fall River isn’t too far south of Boston. Battleship Cove has 3 great ships to tour – the battleship USS Massachusetts, the destroyer USS Joseph P. Kennedy, Jr., and the sub USS Lionfish. Plus you can look inside a PT boat. Very nice place.

      If you’re just in Boston itself, the Charlestown Navy Yard has the USS Cassin Young plus “Old Ironsides,” the USS Constitution.

  16. Laurie Bergh

    Love the photos! I’ve always enjoyed touring boats.

  17. Kathryn Voss

    What a cute apron! I’d love to win! It would work perfectly as I’m making that Boston Cream Pie!

  18. Morgan Parson

    Such a cute apron! I love it! Thanks for the cool pictures too!

  19. Carla K

    Very interesting! It must have been really exciting to tour the ship! Loved reading and seeing the pictures. I really enjoy reading about WWII happenings, items, etc. so this really appealed to me!

  20. Terrill Rosado

    I am so impressed with all of your research with your new book. Touring these ships and Boston can make everything seem more real instead of just thinking of it as a good fictional book. Thank you.

  21. Deana Dougherty

    Very interesting enjoyed this very much

  22. Laurie Bergh

    Thank you so very much for picking me as the winner of the apron I am thrilled to pieces!