After fitting out, the destroyer sailed for San Francisco, Calif., and arrived there on 16 September. Two days later, she shifted to the Mare Island Navy Yard, Vallejo, Calif., where she loaded torpedoes with exercise warheads. She subsequently operated out of Long Beach Calif., and between San Diego and the Canal Zone before sailing for South American waters. On her shakedown cruise, Wilson visited Guayaquil, Ecuador, and Callao, Peru, and then shifted briefly to Balboa, Canal Zone, en route to Manzanillo Bay, Mexico.
Returning to San Diego on 17 November, Wilson later sailed north to her builders' yard for post-shakedown availability, upkeep, and machinery trials. Wilson returned to San Diego on 11 February 1940 and was assigned to Destroyer Division (DesDiv) 12, Destroyer Squadron (DesRon) 6. She operated locally in waters off the southern California coast until she departed Long Beach on 2 April, bound for the Hawaiian Islands and participation in the last big prewar fleet problem Fleet Problem XXI.
En route to Hawaii, Wilson plane guarded for Saratoga (CV-3) as a unit of the White Fleet striking force and as part of the antisubmarine screen. She arrived at Lahaina Roads, off the island of Maui, Territory of Hawaii, on 10 April. Wilson subsequently operated in the Hawaiian area with Lexington (CV-2) during another phase of the Fleet Problem which lasted into May 1940. Near the close of the maneuvers, President Franklin D. Roosevelt—alarmed by continuing Japanese aggression in the Far East—ordered the fleet to remain in Hawaiian waters. (continued)