The final US destroyer design of World War II—the ultimate development of the Fletcher concept—was the Gearing class. As with the Fletchers, the Allen M. Sumner class was satisfactory in most respects, but not all. In the case of the Sumners, the shortcoming was in endurance and the solution was simple: lengthen the hull by 14 feet to increase fuel bunkerage. Internal subdivision was improved, but no other changes were attempted.

Of 152 “long-hull Sumners” ordered, 98 were completed. Two (Bath Iron Works’ Frank Knox andSoutherland, numbered in sequence and launched without pause in the production schedule after Drexler, the yard’s last Sumner) commissioned in 1944. Forty-five commissioned before the end of the war, 62 by the end of 1945 and 91 through 1946, followed by two more (Lloyd Thomas and Keppler) in 1947, four more (EppersonBasiloneCarpenter and Robert A. Owens, with anti-submarine warfare modifications) in 1949, and a final one, (Timmerman, with an experimental engineering plant) in 1952. Seven were canceled. Keels for the remaining 47 (DD 809–816, 854–856 and 891–926) were never laid down.

In 1945, in anticipation of the invasion of Japan, 24 Gearings began conversion as radar picket ships (designated DDR in 1949) that could provide early warning of massed attack without overwhelming their Combat Information Centers. Twelve of the first thirteen ships to complete (DDs 742–3, 805–8, 829 and 873–77) were selected in January; twelve more (DDs 830–35 and 878–83) in May.


Conversions were carried out at Boston and Norfolk Navy Yards and involved replacing the forward torpedo tube mount with a tripod mast for height-finding radar and other systems. (The result was so effective that a further eleven were converted in 1952–3.)

Thanks in part to the 1–2-month post-commissioning delay in converting these early Gearings, they did not begin arriving in the war zone until late June, joining fast carrier task forces only in time for screening and plane-guard duty during the final air raids of the war. None were damaged or lost; three, Frank Knox,Southerland and Perkins, entered Tokyo Bay in time to be present at the Japanese surrender, 2 September.


As the US Navy’s newest destroyers, none were mothballed after the war. Beginning in the late 1950s, 44 received FRAM (Fleet Rehabilitation and Maintenance) Mk I conversions while two were modified for testing: Gyatt as a guided missile platform and Witek  with a “pump-jet” propulsion system.


Together, the Gearings with surviving Sumners and some Fletchers continued in US Navy service during the cold war alongside the Forrest Sherman and Charles F. Adams classes until retired when larger Spruance-class ships began commissioning in the 1970s.

Thereafter, some were sold to the navies of Argentina, Brazil, Greece, Ecuador, Mexico, Pakistan, South Korea, Taiwan, Turkey, and Uruguay through the 1990s. The remainder were sunk as target or scrapped.

Today, two are preserved: Joseph P. Kennedy, Jr, at Battleship Cove, Fall River, Massachusetts, and Orleck at Orange, Texas.