So, I’m re-reading US Destroyers: An Illustrated Design History for… oh, the tenth time?
The Fletcher-class destroyer is THE archetype World War II destroyer. And with 175 of them built during the war, it was numerically, the single largest class of destroyers in the war. And incredibly, most of them were built and commissioned in just a two year period.*
But I never quite realized just how many other destroyers there were. Yes, I certainly knew the Sumner/Gearings served. But I don’t think I realized just how many were built between 1943 and 1945. 156 Sumner/Gearings were built. Ironically, while the Sumner/Gearings were retained in service postwar, they were in may ways less capable than the Fletchers. They were slower, and their lower freeboard made them very wet when serving in the rough waters of the Atlantic in the post war years.
But the part that really surprised me was the number of pre-Fletcher ships in service. I knew there were several small classes of ships that lead to the Fletcher class, but I never really grasped that the vast majority of the destroyer force in the first half of the war were Benson/Livermore (or Gleaves) ships, and earlier 1500/1630 ton designs. There were 96 Benson/Livermore/Gleaves ships. Combined with the 71 earlier “modern” destroyers, it would be a long time before the Fletchers dominated the fleet.
*Though 273 Wickes/Clemson class flush-deckers were built between 1917 and 1922, and many survived to serve in World War II, they were mostly used in a modified escort form. Relatively few served as destroyers, per se; the most famous examples being in the Asiatic Fleet.