Built at Virginia’s Newport News Shipbuilding & Dry Dock Co., Russell was named for a Civil War-era captain who later commanded the Mare Island Naval Shipyard and commissioned 3 November 1939, the sixth ship of the Sims class.
Assigned to Destroyer Squadron 2 with other ships of her class, Russell initially cruised in the western Atlantic and in the Caribbean on Neutrality Patrol but, with the squadron, was transferred to the Pacific after Pearl Harbor was bombed, 7 December 1941.
With Yorktown’s Task Force 17, which included cruisers Louisville and St. Louis and DesRon 2 destroyers Hughes, Sims and Walke under RAdm. Fletcher, Russell escorted a troop convoy from San Diego to Samoa in January 1942 and returned via the Gilbert Islands, where Yorktown’s planes raided Makin, Mili and Jaluit on 1 February.
In midmonth, the force sailed again. Diverted from its original destination, Wake, it covered forces establishing an airbase on Canton Island, important on the Hawaii–Samoa–Fiji route to Australia and less than 1,000 miles from Makin. Raids on Rabaul and Gasmata were next ordered to cover a movement of troops to New Caledonia, but on 8 March the Japanese landed at Salamaua and Lae in New Guinea and Port Moresby was threatened. The force, again joined by the Lexington force as in the Gilberts raid, steamed into the Gulf of Papua, whence, on the 10th, planes were sent over the Owen Stanley Range to bomb the newly-established Japanese bases on the Huon Gulf.
Through April, Russell continued to screen the Yorktown force, operating primarily in the ANZAC area. Detached on 3 May to screen Neosho during fueling operations with TF 11 she rejoined TF 17 early on the 5th and resumed screening duties for the force’s heavier units. On the 7th, in the Coral Sea, she engaged enemy planes closing the formation to threaten Yorktown and Lexington, CV 2, and to support Japanese forces in an assault on Port Moresby. Lexington, hit and heavily damaged, but still in action, continued to recover and launch planes. Three hours later, however, she reported a serious explosion. A second followed. Her fires were no longer under control. She soon commenced abandoning ship. Russell joined her screen; circled the crippled ship as rescue ships evacuated personnel, and, with the completion of that work, departed the scene of the Battle of the Coral Sea.
Retiring to Tonga, Russell debarked 170 survivors from Lexington and sailed for Pearl Harbor. Arriving on the 27th she headed out again on the 30th, this time toward Midway. On 4 June, Task Forces 16 and 17 again met the enemy in an air duel, through which Russell steamed in the screen of Yorktown. In the afternoon, enemy torpedo planes broke through the screen and scored successfully on the carrier. The patched-up survivor of the Coral Sea was abandoned. Russell took on 492 of her crew and aviation personnel. The next day she transferred 27 to Astoria (CA-34) to assist in salvage operations on the carrier, but the Japanese torpedoes negated the effort and Yorktown and Hammann were lost. On the 10th, Russell covered the transferral of replacements from Saratoga (CV-3) to Hornet (CV 8) and Enterprise (CV 6); and, on the 13th, she returned to Pearl Harbor.
Engaged in training exercises for the next 2 months, Russell again sortied with TF 17 on 17 August, took station screening Hornet; and headed southwest. On the 29th, TF 17 joined TF 61, becoming TG 61.2. On the 31st Saratoga took a torpedo and Russell conducted an unsuccessful submarine hunt, the first of many in the long and costly campaign for Guadalcanal. On 6 September, one of Hornet’s planes dropped an explosive off Russell’s starboard quarter to detonate a torpedo. Another submarine search commenced At 1452 she established contact and dropped six 600-pound depth charges. At 1513, she sighted an oil slick 1 mile by one-half mile, but contact was lost at 700 yards and never regained.
Through the remainder of the year, and into the new, Russell continued to operate in support of the Guadalcanal campaign. On 25 and 26 October, she participated in the Battle of the Santa Cruz Islands, during which she again joined in rescue operations for a sinking carrier, this time Hornet, from which she transferred the commander of Task Force 17, Rear Adm. George D. Murray and his staff to Pensacola (CA 24), seriously wounded personnel to Northampton (CA 26), and other survivors to Nouméa where Russell’s superstructure, damaged during rescue work, was repaired. During December and into January 1943, she screened convoys to Guadalcanal and Tulagi, then to Rennell. In February, she screened Enterprise; then, in March, resumed convoy escort work, making one run to Australia and back by mid-April.
On 1 May the destroyer set a course for the West Coast. At the end of July, after overhaul at Mare Island, she steamed north to join forces staging for the “invasion” of Kiska. Aleutian patrol duty followed, and, with the arrival of autumn, she turned south to escort landing craft to Hawaii. In October, she continued on to Wellington, New Zealand and, in early November, she escorted transports to the New Hebrides where she joined TF 53, then preparing to push into the Gilberts. Underway on the 13th with the Task Force, she arrived with the troop transports off Betio, Tarawa, on the 20th, then screened heavier units as they shelled the shore. Remaining in the area until the 25th, she provided gunfire support and screened the transports as they filled with Marine casualties. On the 27th, she joined TG 50.:3 and, with TG 50.1, sailed for the Marshalls. On 4 December, carrier planes raided Kwajalein and Wotje, and, on the 9th, the force returned to Pearl Harbor, whence Russell continued on to the West Voast.
On 13 January 1944, Russell, screening TG 53.5, departed the California coast. Training in the Hawaiian Islands followed. On the 22d the force headed west. On the 30th, Russell joined other destroyers and heavier units in shelling Wotje. On the 31st, she rejoined the main force off Kwajalein and after initial screening duties, added her guns to the naval gunfire support line. On 2 February, she screened CarDiv 22 and on the 3d, entered Kwajalein lagoon. Standing out 5 days later, she arrived at Pearl Harbor on the 15th and was directed on to Puget Sound for repairs.
Repairs completed in March, Russell returned to Hawaii in early April; then escorted U.S. Army tug, Willard Holbrook to New Guinea where she rejoined her squadron, DesRon 2. Arriving at Finschhafen 4 May, she reported to the commander of TF 76 at Sudest on the 6th and commenced 5 months of intensive and navigationally difficult escort work along the New Guinea coast. Assigned initially to escort LST's resupplying Hollandia and Aitape, she joined TF 77 on the 16th and covered LCIs and ATs to the Wakde-Sarmi area. From the 17th to the 20th, she stood off Wakde, marking the approach channel on the first day of the campaigns there and providing fire support and screening services on the others. On the 20th, she returned to Humboldt Bay and 5 days later sailed with LSTs for Biak to commence Operation “Horliek.” On the 27th, she shelled Padiator Island, patrolled between Pai and Pandiadori Islands, blasted targets on Biak, and then got underway to return to Humboldt Bay. Into June, she continued to escort convoys to and provide cover for operations at Biak and Wakde. In mid-June, she participated in a bombardment of the Toem area, then resumed escort runs along the coast. In early July, Noemfoor, with its two Japanese airfields, became the target. At midmonth Russell gained a brief respite at Manus, then at the end of the month commenced Operation “Globetrotter,” the capture of Sansapor. Through August, she continued operations in support of the campaign and, in mid-September, moved forward to the Moluccas to cover the occupation of Morotai, the last stepping stone on the southern route to the Philippines and on the eastern route to Borneo and the Netherlands East Indies.
On 13 October Russell sailed with TF 78 for the Philippines and on the 20th, as the troops of the Northern Attack Force landed south of Tacloban, patrolled off Alabat Point. 0n the 21st she took up fire support duties to the north of the unloading area. Through the 24th she remained in San Pedro Bay; resumed patrol in Leyte Gulf on the 25th; and, on the 26th, got underway for New Guinea, whence during November and December, she escorted reinforcements to Leyte.
On 28 December, Russell departed Aitape for her next amphibious operation the invasion of Luzon and steamed into the Mindoro Sea on 5 January 1945. Two days later, she joined three other destroyers in forming an interceptor force 5 miles on the starboard of the San Fabian Attack Force to destroy any enemy ships attempting a sortie from Manila Bay against the convoy. At 2230 an enemy destroyer, Hinoki, was detected and fired on. The shells found their mark; Hinoki exploded and sank within 20 minutes.
On the 9th, the force, having survived harassing attacks by planes, boats and ships, arrived in Lingayen Gulf and Russell assumed screening duties off the transport area. For 9 days she patrolled, illuminated, bombarded, and fought off kamikazes. From the 18th to the 23rd, she escorted damaged ships back to Leyte and, on the 27th, sailed north again. On the 31st, she arrived off Nasugbu Bay, covered YMSs as they cleared approach channels, then fired on enemy emplacements on Nasugbu Point. Relieved in late afternoon she returned to Lingayen Gulf, thence, on 2 February, to Leyte, New Guinea, and the Solomons.
Russell arrived at Guadalcanal 15 February rejoined the Fifth Fleet and prepared for Operation “Iceberg”; the Okinawa offensive. On 1 April, she arrived off the assault beaches and commenced screening the Northern Transport area. From the 3d to the 5th, she patrolled north of Ie Shima, then returned to the transport area to escort a convoy to Ulithi. Returning to the Hagushi beaches with reinforcements on the 21st, she shifted to Kerama Retto, whence she patrolled in carrier operating area “Rapier,” south of Okinawa, into May. Detached from carrier screening duty on the 27th, she proceeded to the Hagushi anchorage and got underway the following day for the United States and a yard overhaul.
Still undergoing overhaul at Seattle when the war ended RusselI was prepared for inactivation during September; and, on 15 November, she was decommissioned. Thirteen days later she was struck from the Navy list and, in September 1947, she was sold for scrap to the National Metal & Steel Corp., Terminal Island, California.
In 1995, a second USS Russell, DDG 59, was commissioned—the ninth guided missile destroyer of the Arleigh Burke class.