A destroyer is a class of naval vessels that evolved from the torpedo boat. Present-day destroyers have proved to be the most versatile ships of the U.S. Navy. They are commonly named for outstanding deceased officers and men of the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps. Their type designations are as varied as their duties. They include the DE (destroyer-escort), DD (large destroyer), DDE (large destroyer-escort), DDG (large destroyer guided missile), DDR (radar picket), and others.
An early forerunner of the destroyer was a small, extremely fast vessel, called a torpedo boat. This boat was built to convey a torpedo developed in 1868 by a British engineer, Robert Whitehead. The torpedo was capable of traveling underwater under its own power after being set on a predetermined course. In the 1890's the British developed a class of larger fast vessels to screen the fleet against torpedo boats and also to serve as dispatch boats. These were called torpedo-boat destroyers, later shortened to destroyers.
With the development of the steam turbine and oil-fired watertube boilers the destroyer came into its own and was increased in size and power. During World War I, with the development of underwater listening devices and the addition of the depth charge to its armament, the destroyer proved its value as an antisubmarine ship. Destroyers convoyed both cargo ships and troopships during the war.