Operating in the Pacific with flagship Selfridge other ships of her class as Destroyer Squadron 4 before World War II, Patterson was moored at Pearl Harbor on 7 December 1941, shooting down one attacking plane before standing out of the harbor in search of enemy submarines and then screening Saratoga in searching for the enemy.
In the early months of the war, Patterson continued patrolling in the Pacific, escorting convoys and screening Lexington’s Task Force 11 (Rear Adm. Wilson Brown) in an aborted raid on Rabaul, 20 February, and a sortie into the Gulf of Papua for a successful air strike on Lae and Salamaua, New Guinea, 10 March.
In May, after an overhaul, Patterson took part in the Operation Watchtower, the invasion of Guadalcanal and Tulagi in the Solomon Islands, 7 August. Responding, a Japanese cruiser column approached undetected until her CO, Destroyer Division 8 Commander F.R. Walker, raised the alert shortly after 0130, 9 August 1942. Patterson promptly engaged Japanese warships during the Battle of Savo Island, receiving shell hits that killed ten of her crew and damaged her two after five-inch guns.
Patterson remained on escort duty in the Solomon Islands for the duration of the Guadalcanal campaign and the following New Georgia campaign—bombarding Munda, New Georgia, on 25 July 1943, sinking submarine I-178 on 25 August, and covering landings to occupy Vella Lavella in September and attacking barges—until she and McCalla were badly damaged in a collision on 29–30 September when the latter lost steering control, killing three and wounding ten. Fitted with a false bow at Espiritu Santo, Patterson left 6 December for repairs at Mare Island.
Patterson returned to the war zone in March 1944, in time to participate in the Battle of the Philippine Sea in June and the Marianas campaign from then into August, followed by the Palaus campaign, raids on Japanese bases in the western Pacific, and the invations of Leyte and Mindoro. In 1945, she took part in the Lingayen operation, the Iwo Jima landings and the long campaign in the Ryukyus. She concluded the war with escort and patrol work in the central and western Pacific.
In late September 1945, Patterson returned to New York and was decommissioned there in November. She was sold for scrapping in August 1947. She earned 13 battle stars in World War II.
* Morison, The Struggle for Guadalcanal, page 37.