After shakedown, George E. Badger was based at Charleston, South Carolina while operating in Caribbean waters and along the eastern seaboard from Jacksonville, Florida to Boston. Returning to Philadelphia on 6 June 1922, she decommissioned there on 11 August and was subsequently transferred to the Treasury Department on 1 October 1930 for use by the Coast Guard. She was reacquired by the Navy 21 May 1934 and redesignated AVP-16 on 1 October 1939.
George E. Badger recommissioned at Philadelphia on 8 January 1940, Lt. Comdr. Frank Akers in command. During the next year she engaged in training operations in the Caribbean. Redesignated AVD-3 on 2 August 1940, she returned to Norfolk on 12 January 1941 and subsequently tended planes while based at Argentia, Newfoundland, and Reykjavik, Iceland, until the spring of 1942.
Ordered to Charleston on 26 May 1942, George E. Badger escorted convoys along the eastern seaboard, in the Gulf of Mexico, and to Recife and Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, until returning to Norfolk on 15 January 1943 to be fitted out for Atlantic convoy duty. Through the spring of 1943 she operated out of Argentia shepherding convoys bound for the United Kingdom. In June she underwent overhaul at Norfolk, then sailed 13 July for North Africa. Steaming with escort carrier Bogue (CVE 9) and destroyer Clemson (DD-186), she made her first kill 23 July 1943 after four depth charge attacks broke up deep-running U-613 southwest of Sao Miguel, Azores. This victory came just a few hours before planes from Bogue attacked and sent U-521 to the bottom not far away.
After touching Casablanca, George E. Badger returned to New York 23 August. During the next two months, she made another escort voyage from New York to Casablanca, then returned to New York 21 October. Departing Hampton Roads on 14 November, she sailed for North Africa with Bogue and destroyers Du Pont, Osmond Ingram and Clemson on an offensive antisubmarine patrol. This patrol was aggressively and successfully conducted, blasting U-172 on 12 December 1943 after a 24-hour game of cat-and-mouse which the German submarine lost.
After escorting another convoy from Norfolk to North Africa and back George E. Badger underwent conversion to high speed transport at Charleston and was redesignated APD-33 on 19 May 1944. Sailing for duty in the Pacific, she steamed via the West Coast and Pearl Harbor to Guadalcanal where she arrived 12 August. From there she carried to the Palau Islands. Reaching Angaur Island 12 September, George E. Badger screened warships bombarding the island and from 14 to 16 September sent her hardy frogmen ashore for reconnaissance and demolition work. Intelligence was gathered and obstacles on the beach removed before the ship got underway 12 October for Leyte, where until 18 October she supported the reconnaissance and bombardment of the east coast of that strategic island and again landed her frogmen.
Departing 21 October, she called at Kossol Passage, Manus, and Nouméa before participating in the Lingayen landings of 5–11 January 1945. In these she lent her effective fire support as requested, and on D-day, 5 January, blew an attacking Japanese torpedo plane out of the air. Her frogmen hit the beaches 2 days later; and, despite frequent air attacks, George E. Badger continued screening during landings 7 January until sailing 11 January for Leyte and Ulithi.
Until the spring of 1945 the veteran warship was overhauled at Ulithi; patrolled off Iwo Jima while the fighting raged; and escorted ships from Guam to Guadalcanal, Noumea, and Manus. She sailed from Ulithi 2 April 1945 for Okinawa with carriers delivering replacement aircraft, and subsequently escorted convoys from Saipan to Okinawa. George E. Badger sailed from Eniwetok 24 June for Pearl Harbor. Ordered thence to San Francisco for reconversion, she reverted to DD-196 on 20 July 1945 and later decommissioned at that port 3 October 1945. George E. Badger was scrapped 3 June 1946.
In addition to her Presidential Unit Citation with the Bogue task group, George E. Badger earned eight battle stars for World War II service.