Taylor was sponsored at her launch on 7 June 1942 by Mrs. H. A. Baldridge. Named for the Civil War-era officer, later Rear Admiral William Rogers Taylor, she was commissioned at Boston Navy Yard 28 August 1942, exactly a year after she was laid down—the ninth 2,100-ton Fletcher-class destroyer and the fifth from Bath Iron Works. Under LCdr. Benjamin Katz, she joined Destroyer Squadron 20 at Portland, Maine for shakedown and served as flagship from 28 September. Following a cruise to Jamaica, Guantánamo Bay and Bermuda, she departed New York on 13 November a four-week heavy weather round trip supporting the invasion North Africa, en route boarding the Spanish steamship Darro to enforce radio silence regarding the 42-ship Support Force she was escorting.
Name: United States Ship Taylor
Namesake: Rear Admiral William Rogers Taylor, USN
Navy Classification: DD 468
Class: DD 445, Fletcher
Authorized: 27 March 1934
Builder: Bath Iron Works Corp., Bath, Maine
Builder’s Hull Number: 194
Keel laid: 28 August 1941
Launched: 7 June 1942
First commissioned: 28 August 1942
Decommissioned: 2 July 1969
Disposition: Italy: Lanciere
Like other early 2100-tonners, Taylor next went to the South Pacific. Detached from her Atlantic squadron, she passed through the Panama Canal on Christmas Eve and arrived in time to participate in the anti-air “Battle of Rennell Island” on 29 January. It was planned to place her in Destroyer Division 41 with Bath-built predecessors O’Bannon, Chevalier and Strong, part of Destroyer Squadron 21 under Capt. Frank McInerney in Nicholas. Initially, however, she replaced the damaged La Vallette in Division 42 with Fletcher, Radford and Jenkins.
Taylor’s first offensive sortie was with Nicholas, Radford and Strong to Kula Gulf, 15 March, to bombard Kolombangara Island’s Vila coconut plantation on the Japanese supply route to the vital Munda airstrip on New Georgia Island, the Allies new objective in the Solomon Islands.
Her next assignment was to escort oiler Kanawha and auxiliaries from Espiritu Santo to Tulagi, arriving 29 March. While Kanawha discharged her cargo there, Taylor joined RAdm. “Pug” Ainsworth’s Task Force 18 for night sweeps up the “Slot” on 4, 5 and 6 April. On the 7th, before the largest Japanese air raid since Pearl Harbor descended upon the Guadalcanal area, Ainsworth and his task force slipped out of reach but left Taylor behind with Kanawha. Unable gain maneuvering room off Tulagi in time, Kanawha was disabled by five quick hits; Taylor was fortunate to escape.
On 5 May, the Taylor and her task force penetrated deeply into Japanese-held waters to cover Radford and flush-deckers Preble, Gamble and Breese in mining Blackett Strait—a dangerous operation that nonetheless came off without a hitch and promptly cost the Japanese three destroyers from its “Vila Express.”
Operating independently in early July, Taylor missed the losses of Strong and Helena at Kula Gulf, but returned to RAdm R. K. Turner’s Amphibious Force—the “III ’Phib”—joining Task Group 31.2, a “Destroyer Striking Force.” On 11–12 July, TG 31.2 made a round trip to KulaGulf with reinforcements for the overland Munda campaign. On the way back, Taylor caught submarine I-25 (which had shelled Fort Stevens, Oregon in 1942) on the surface and sank her.
Meanwhile, the next “Vila Express” was setting out from Rabaul and Taylor temporarily rejoined DesRon 21 and Task Force 18 to intercept it. Third in line at the resulting Battle of Kolombangara, Taylor and other van destroyers were initially blinded by a searchlight from flag cruiser Jintsu, but helped bury her under shellfire in the moments before she could strike. A torpedo exchange followed in which New Zealand light cruiser Leander was damaged; then the Taylor and her squadron were detached to pursue retiring enemy destroyers. But the destroyers were not retiring! Rather, they reloaded torpedoes, returned, damaged the two remaining American cruisers and sank destroyer Gwin in one of the most effective torpedo attacks of the war. In the aftermath, Taylor directed aircraft in covering rescue operations; then joined Radford in escorting Leander to safety.
But there was more rescue work to be done. Not all Helena survivors from the previous week had yet been saved; some had drifted into enemy-held Vella Lavella. Thus two nights later, while Capt. McInerney’s four ships screened, Taylor and elements of the Destroyer Striking Force under Capt. Thomas Ryan entered Vella Gulf. Closing Vella Lavella’s uncharted eastern shore using radar and leadlines, the plucky Taylor led destroyer-transports Waters and Dent into two bays where they embarked 154 Helena shipmates (plus a Japanese prisoner and 16 Chinese) bringing the total rescued to 739. RAdm. “Ping” Wilkinson, now commanding III ’Phib, signaled, “Thank you for bringing home so much of our bacon. Well done.”
On 23 July, Cmdr. Arleigh Burke in Conway replaced Capt. Ryan and sized up the Taylor in just three days: “The prompt submission of concise well-conceived action reports written during a period when sleep must have meant much to all of you is a further indication of the extremely high standard your ship sets for itself and meets.” Four days later, Taylor left his command to rejoin Squadron 21. A week after that, Cmdr. Frederick Moosbrugger relieved Cmdr. Burke and, using Burke’s tactics, led Taylor’s old TG 31.2 in a smashing victory at the Battle of Vella Gulf.
Munda was secured on 1 August and a decision was taken to leapfrog Kolombangara in favor of … Vella Lavella! On 15 August, Destroyer Division 41—the Nicholas, O’Bannon, Taylor and Chevalier now under Capt. Ryan—covered the occupation of Barakoma. Thus began a two-week endurance contest in which they did the 500-mile round trip from Purvis Bay ten times, eventually learning to expect orders to “get underway and go up the Slot; more later” from the admiral to whom they referred ever after as “More Later” Wilkinson.
In the early hours of the 18th, sweeping north of Vella Lavella, they encountered a concentration of barges and four destroyers off Horaniu. In one of the most interesting unnamed surface battles of the Solomons campaign, Capt. Ryan’s ships avoided Japanese torpedoes and then pursued, slightly damaging two DDs with shellfire but in so doing lost track of the barges, most of which escaped destruction. On the 19th, they returned to search for more surface units and barges, only to face heavy bombing attacks from enemy planes. Later they covered another minelaying operation off Kolombangara.
So it went until a ten-day tender availability and then a well-deserved R&R in Sydney, from which Taylor returned for more barge-bashing in October. On the 7th, with Ralph Talbot and the repaired La Vallette, Taylor raced to close Selfridge, Chevalier and O’Bannon—all three of which sustained bow damage in their Battle of Vella Lavella—but arrived just as enemy destroyers retired out of range. Deep within reach of enemy bombers who knew their position, La Vallette scuttled Chevalier and Taylor took off most of Selfridge’s crew while the remainder coaxed her home.
Thus ended Taylor’s lucky career in the Solomon Islands: four bombardments, three surface engagements, three minelaying expeditions, multiple anti-aircraft actions and interceptions of enemy barges and destroyers plus numerous rescues, all without damage, for which she received a Navy Unit Commendation after the war. On its detachment to head home, Admiral Halsey signaled the squadron, “ . . . Your habit of getting into winning scraps with the Japs has made history . . . ” And as they arrived at Pearl Harbor after supporting the landings at Tarawa, Adm. Nimitz added, “Special greetings to the veterans of the Slot. We are proud to have you with us.” Taylor with Nicholas, Fletcher, Radford, Jenkins and La Vallette steamed under the Golden Gate Bridge in time for Christmas.
Cmdr Nicholas Frank, Jr., relieved Capt. Katz on 16 January 1944. On 1 February, Taylor returned to sea for her second wartime tour with a heavier 40mm battery. After working up in the Central Pacific, she arrived at Purvis Bay 26 March; then with her division sailed for Milne Bay, New Guinea. Attached to the Seventh Fleet, they never strayed far from the equator over the next months, operating in support of General MacArthur’s campaign along New Guinea’s north coast and on to the Molucca Islands with the Taylor often assigned fighter director and anti-submarine escort duty, damaging a submarine on 10 June.
For the invasion of the Philippines in October, Taylor and her division escorted a reinforcement echelon to Leyte Gulf. They observed the fireworks of the Battle of Surigao Strait from their anchorage at San Pedro Bay, then patrolled as a Torpedo Attack Force off Dinagat Island, a last line of defense—fortunately not needed—during the nearby Battle off Samar.
With Leyte secured, the squadron moved north to support landings in Luzon’s Lingayen Gulf. En route, near Negros Island on 5 January, a midget submarine fired two torpedoes at light cruiser Boise but Taylor ran it down, striking it amidships and sinking it, her sonar gear sustaining her only scratch of the war.
Taylor then operated from Luzon’s Subic Bay, where she acquired a small mongrel that soon answered to the name “Subic” and where her softball team emerged victorious in a league with O’Bannon and Nicholas.
On 6 February, LCdr. Henry deLauréal assumed command, The 13th–18th of that same month found the squadron serving as bait for shore batteries hidden in caves on Corregidor and supporting minesweeping in nearby Mariveles Harbor at the tip of Manila Bay’s Bataan Peninsula. Again the Taylor avoided damage, unlike the Fletcher and Hopewell, which sustained shell hits, and the La Vallette and Radford, which were put out of the war by mines, all on Valentine’s Day.
After the fall of Manila, the surviving ships’ crews took a two-day sight-seeing tour of the devastated city.
In March, after Taylor conducted a single-ship reprise of her February bombardment of Corregidor’s western cliffs, she and the surviving ships of her squadron moved on to Zamboanga, Mindinao and to Cebu, where she again dueled at close range with shore batteries but still avoided damage. This work was repeated one more time in the war’s last amphibious operation, at Tarakan, Dutch Borneo, where the Jenkins was mined, bringing the squadron’s number down to its three remaining Bath-built ships.
Returning to Leyte, they departed 8 July to join Task Force 38 until the Japanese cease fire. Task Group 30.1, Missouri, Nicholas, O’Bannon and Taylor, was formed on 22 August. Five days later, it steamed into Sagami Wan outside Tokyo Bay, where Taylor became the first ship to anchor in peace in Japanese waters (the exact same waters in which the Olympic yachting event took place 19 years later), notwithstanding the Missouri’s official claims to the contrary.
On 29 August, the task group weighed anchor to lead a great parade of ships into Tokyo Bay. On 2 September, the formal ceremony for the Japanese surrender to the Allied Nations took place on board the Missouri, for which the Taylor transported nearly 200 Allied and Japanese war correspondents.
After the war, Capt. deLauréal wrote a fine farewell and published the Taylor’s statistics as follows: 208,534 total miles from 28 August 1942 to 28 August 1945; 10.8 million gallons of fuel oil and another 10.8 million of water consumed during that time; 1.8 million lbs. of dry and fresh provisions consumed; 5.1 million kilowatt hours of electricity generated; 20 torpedoes; 174 depth charges and 14,437 rounds of 5-inch/38 ammunition expended.
On 31 May 1946, the Taylor was decommissioned and placed in reserve at San Diego, but began conversion in 1950 and was recommissioned as an escort destroyer (DDE) on 3 December 1951 under Comdr. Sheldon Kinney, skipper of the distinguished destroyer escort Bronstein in World War II.
Off Korea, Taylor at first operated with fast carriers. Then, and during a second deployment, she bombarded shore targets and, from 17 September to 6 October 1952 with Jenkins, “rode shotgun” for minesweepers clearing the harbor at Wonsan. There in hazardous waters on 27 September, she and minesweeper Heron were nearly hit by batteries firing at close range from the Kalma Gak peninsula that bisects the harbor.
Following maintenance at Pearl Harbor at the end of that year, the Taylor rejoined the Korea blockade in mid-1953 followed by the Taiwan Strait Patrol, completing her Korean War service without casualties or damage and beginning a pattern of deployments to the western Pacific that lasted into 1969. Reclassified DD, she joined in shore bombardment and other duties off the Vietnam coast when war broke out there in 1965.
Returning to San Diego in 1969, she was retired 2 July and, in a ceremony with Walker, commissioned in the Italian Navy as Lanciere. Decommissioned in January 1971, she was subsequently cannibalized to maintain other ex-American destroyers in the Italian Navy.
In addition to her Navy Unit Commendation, Taylor earned 15 battle stars during World War II, two for Korea and six for Vietnam. Documentation regarding her career is unusually complete, with one of the most comprehensive histories in the Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships. Her World War II cruise book contains an unusually vivid narrative and a large and excellent selection of photos.