Following a shakedown cruise, which took her to the Azores, Portugal, and the British Isles, Hull arrived at San Diego via the Panama Canal 19 October 1935. She began her operations with the Pacific Fleet off San Diego, engaging in tactical exercises and training. During the summer of 1936, she cruised to Alaska and in April 1937 took part in fleet exercises in Hawaiian waters. During this increasingly tense pre-war period, Hull often acted as plane guard to the Navy’s Pacific carriers during the perfection of tactics, which would be a central factor in America’s victory in World War II. She continued these operations until the outbreak of the war, moving to her new home port, Pearl Harbor, 12 October 1939.
The pattern of fleet problems, plane guard duty and patrolling was rudely interrupted 7 December 1941 when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. Hull was alongside tender Dobbin undergoing repairs, but quickly put her anti-aircraft batteries into operation and assisted in downing several planes. As the main object of the raid was battleships, the destroyer suffered no hits and departed next day to join carrier Enterprise and escort her into Pearl Harbor. During the next critical months of the war, Hull operated with Admiral Wilson Brown’s Task Force 11, screening Lexington in important strikes on Japanese bases in the Solomons. She returned to Pearl Harbor 26 March, and for 3 months sailed on convoy duty between San Francisco and Pearl Harbor. Hull was soon back in the thick of combat, however, as she sailed 7 December for Suvu, Fiji Islands, to prepare for America’s first offensive land thrust, the amphibious assault on Guadalcanal. She departed 26 July for the Solomons and on the day of the landings, 7 August 1942, screened cruisers during shore bombardment and then took up station as antisubmarine protection for the transports. Next day, she helped repel strong enemy bombing attacks, shooting down several of the attackers, and that evening performed the sad duty of sinking transport George F. Elliott, burning beyond control. On 9 August, the destroyer sank a small schooner off Guadalcanal departing that evening for Espiritu Santo. During the next difficult weeks on Guadalcanal, Hull made three voyages with transports and warships in support of the troops, undergoing air attacks 3 and 14 September.
The ship returned to Pearl Harbor 20 October, and spent the remainder of the year with battleship Colorado in the New Hebrides. She sailed 29 January from Pearl Harbor bound for repairs at San Francisco, arriving 7 February 1943. Upon completion, she moved to the bleak Aleutians, arriving Adak 16 April, and began a series of training maneuvers with battleships and cruisers in the northern waters. As the Navy moved in to retake Attu in May, Hull continued her patrol duties, and during July and early August, she took part in numerous bombardments of Kiska Island. The ship also took part in the landings on Kiska 15 August, only to find that the Japanese had evacuated their last foothold in the Aleutian chain.
Hull returned to the Central Pacific after the Kiska operation, arriving Pearl Harbor 26 September 1943. She departed with the fleet three days later for strikes on Wake Island, and operated with escort carriers during diversionary strikes designed to mask the Navy’s real objective the Gilberts. Hull bombarded Makin during this assault 20 November, and with the invasion well underway arrived in convoy at Pearl Harbor 7 December 1943. From there she returned to Oakland 21 December for amphibious exercises.
Next on the island road to Japan was the Marshall Islands, and Hull sailed with Task Force 53 from San Diego 13 January 1944. She arrived 31 January off Kwajalein, screening transports in the reserve area, and through February carried out screening and patrol duties off Eniwetok and Majuro. Joining a battleship and carrier group, the ship moved to Mille Atoll 18 March, and took part in a devastating bombardment. Hull also took part in the bombardment of Wotje 22 March.
The veteran ship next participated in the devastating raid on the great Japanese base at Truk 29–30 April after which she arrived Majuro 4 May 1944. There she joined Admiral Lee’s battleships for the next major invasion, the assault on the Marianas. Hull bombarded Saipan 13 June, covered minesweeping operations with gunfire and patrolled during the initial landing 15 June. Two days later Hull and other ships steamed out to join Admiral Mitscher’s carrier task force as the Japanese made preparations to close the Marianas for a decisive naval battle. The great fleets approached each other 19 June for the biggest carrier engagement of the war, and as four large air raids hit the American dispositions fighter cover from the carriers of Hull’s Task Group 68.2 and surface fire decimated the Japanese planes. With an able assist from American submarines, Mitscher succeeded in sinking two Japanese carriers in addition to inflicting fatal losses on the Japanese naval air arm during “The Great Marianas Turkey Shoot” 19 June, Hull assisting in several of these brilliant antiaircraft engagements.
During July, the destroyer operated with carrier groups off Guam, and after the assault 21 July patrolled off the island. In August, she returned to Seattle, arriving the 26th, and underwent repairs, which kept her in the States until 23 October, when she anchored at Pearl Harbor. Hull joined a Third Fleet refueling group, departing 20 November 1944 to rendezvous with fast carrier striking forces in the Philippine Sea. Fueling began 17 December, but increasingly heavy seas forced cancellation later that day. The fueling group became engulfed in an approaching typhoon next day, with barometers falling to very low levels and winds increasing above 90 knots. At about 1100 on 18 December, Hull became locked “in irons,” in the trough of the mountainous sea and unable to steer. All hands worked feverishly to maintain integrity and keep the ship afloat during the heavy rolls, but finally, in the words of her commander: “The ship remained over on her side at an angle of 80 degrees or more as the water flooded into her upper structures. I remained on the port wing of the bridge until the water flooded up to me, then I stepped off into the water as the ship rolled over on her way down.”
Hull received 10 battle stars for World War II service.