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USS Bristol
Builder: Bethlehem Steel, San Pedro
Laid Down: May 5, 1944
Launched: October 29, 1944
Commissioned: March 17, 1945
Decommissioned: November 21, 1969 (Stricken)
Fate: To Taiwan December 9, 1969. Renamed Hua Yang, stricken and scraped in 1993.

The Sumner Class Destroyers as Built

The Sumner class destroyer was the next evolutionary step from the Fletcher class and reflected the increasing need for Anti-Aircraft Warfare defense. They shared the same power plants as their predecessor but had twin rudders and were slightly longer and wider in the beam. They are often referred to as "Short Hulls" as the subsequent Gearing class DD's were essentially the same as the Sumner class except for a fourteen foot extension inserted into the middle of the hull. This was to give the ship a larger fuel capacity and, therefore, increased range.

Of the seventy Sumner's class DD's built, USS Sumner DD 692 being the first and USS Bristol DD 857 being the last, only five were lost to enemy action. The Meredith struck a mine during the D-Day landing and was lost to a German aircraft attack. The Cooper was sunk by a Japanese destroyer in the Philippines. The Mannert L. Abele was sunk by a hit from an "Oka"– bomb and a Kamikaze plane off Okinawa. The Drexler and the Hugh W. Hadley were both lost to hits by Kamikazes. Many others suffered severe damage from large numbers of Kamikaze attacks and various other battle action but these were repaired and returned to service. Twelve of the seventy DD's were converted for mine-laying duty while under construction.

As the years passed, and the need for improved Anti-Submarine warfare capabilities became evident, the Sumner class DD's received numerous modifications to the weapons and electronics on board. Improved surface and air radars, ECM (Electronic Counter Measures) equipment, fixed and directable hedgehog launchers, new torpedoes and torpedo launching systems, DASH (Drone Anti Submarine Helicopter), fixed and variable depth sonar (VDS) systems were added extended the service life of the ships far beyond the expectations of the people that planned the first one. A few of these old workhorses are still around even today in the service of foreign navies!

Bristol's "800" Designation Number

In the early 1940's, the Navy's Bureau of Ships Department originally drew up the designs and ordered 198 Sumner Class Destroyers to be constructed. The Contracts for the construction of these Destroyers were spread out through many of the country's ship building yards. Sometime in approximately 1943, it was decided to modify the basic Sumner Class Destroyer (short hull) blueprint design and add a fourteen foot midsection (long hull) addition to the basic hull design.

This addition was for additional fuel tank capacity which would give the Destroyer an extended operating range. With this modification a new Class of Destroyer was designated which was the Gearing Class Destroyer. At this point in time, it was decided that only seventy Sumner Class Destroyers would be completed. Sumner Class Destroyers range in designations from 692 to 857, and the USS Bristol DD 857 was the last of the Sumner Class Destroyers to be built. At the time when the decision was made to commence the modified construction of the basic Sumner Class hull to the new Gearing Class hull, the Bristol construction was too far along to incorporate the new Gearing Class modification. Because designation numbers had been previously assigned, the hull number of 857 stuck for the Bristol.

Many of the other Sumner Class hulls that were under construction were not far enough along in construction to preclude the fourteen foot modification be incorporated and, as a result, were now being designated as a Gearing Class Destroyer and whatever designation number had been previously assigned for this hull under construction the designations numbers stuck. The Gearing designator numbers range from 710 to 890.

The combined total number of Sumner and Gearing Class Destroyers actually built were 175 of the original 198 ordered. Twenty-three of these originally ordered Destroyers were canceled before they could be constructed. Thus is explained the often asked question about the USS Bristol DD 857 designation number and why it is so far out of sequence with all of the other Sumner Class Destroyers built.

Basic Ref: US Navy Ships

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