Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships

Office of the Chief of Naval Operations
Naval History Division • Washington

USS Buck (DD-420)

James Buck was born at Baltimore, Md., in 1808 and enlisted in the Navy in 1852. He was awarded a Medal of Honor for his heroic service during the Civil War on board the steamer Brooklyn where, though severely wounded, he stood at the wheel r eight hours and steered the vessel during the engagement with Forts Jackson and St. Philip on the Mississippi River. He died in Baltimore 1 November 1865.
SP-1355, a 33-toot motor boat of 1917-18, was also known as Buck.

(DD-420: dp. 1570: l. 348'3"; b. 36'1"; dr. 17'4"; s. 37 k.; cpl. 257; a. 4 5", 8 21" tt.; cl. Sims)

Buck (DD-420) was launched 22 May 1939 by Philadelphia Navy Yard sponsored by Mrs. Julius C. Townsend, wife of Rear Admiral Townsend, and commissioned 15 May 1940, Lieutenant Commander H. O. Robison in command.

Buck joined the Atlantic Squadron after a brief period of trial runs. From February until June 1941 she was with the Pacific Fleet and then rejoined the Atlantic Fleet serving on convoy escort duty between the United States and Iceland and along the eastern seaboard.

With the entry of the United States into World War II Buck continued to serve as a convoy escort, steaming from the seaports of the eastern United States to ports in Newfoundland, Iceland, Northern Ireland, North Africa, and the Caribbean.

On 22 August 1942 during one of these crossings, Buck was hit starboard side aft by SS Awatea while trying to escort another vessel of the convoy to her correct position during a dense fog. The impact cut about two-thirds through Buck's fantail and broke her keel. Seven of her personnel were lost. The starboard propeller was inoperative and within a few hours the port propeller dropped off. The fantail section, which had been secured by lines and wires, had to be allowed to sink when it became apparent that it would damage the hull by banging and chafing. On 26 August Buck , in tow of Cherokee (AT-66), reached Boston where she underwent repair until November. Upon completion of repairs she returned to Atlantic convoy escort duty until June.

Arriving in North Africa 21 June 1943, she was assigned to patrol duty off Tunisia and Algeria and then participated in the invasion of Sicily (10 July-2 August 1943) carrying out bombardment, screening, and patrol duties. On 3 August, while escorting a convoy of six liberty ships from Sicily to Algeria, Buck attacked and sunk the Italian submarine Argento in 36°52' N., 12°08' E., and took 45 of her crew as prisoners.

Returning to the Mediterranean in late September 1943, after escorting a convoy to the United States, Buck supported the invasion and occupation of Italy. On 9 October 1948 while on patrol off Salerno, Italy, Buck was hit forward by at least one and possibly two torpedoes. The damage sustained was so complete that the ship had to be abandoned within three minutes after she was hit and she sank a minute later. The loss of life was very heavy. Only 97 of her personnel survived. They were rescued by Gleaves (DD-423) and the British LCT-170.

Buck received three battle stars for her World War II service.

Transcribed and formatted for HTML by Patrick Clancey, HyperWar Foundation