Following shakedown in the Charleston area and exercises off Newport, Hilary P. Jones departed 11 December for duty with the Neutrality Patrol in the Caribbean. She performed escort duties in those waters until 11 March 1941, when she returned to Hampton Roads. Training exercises off New England followed until 28 April, when the destroyer departed New York as a convoy escort. She steamed to Newfoundland, and for the next dangerous months before Pearl Harbor escorted cargo ships and transports in the North Atlantic. During one of these voyages to Iceland, 31 October 1941, destroyer Reuben James, the first naval vessel to be lost in the war, was torpedoed and sunk. Hilary P. Jones rescued eleven survivors of the attack before arriving Reykjavik 3 November.
The destroyer continued the hazardous North Atlantic convoy duty after America’s entry into the war, battling both German submarines and the elements to bring sorely needed troops and supplies to the Allies. Hilary P. Jones transferred to Mediterranean duty in January 1944 as production of escort vessels and frigates allowed the larger destroyers to be used for other assignments. The destroyer departed with her squadron 16 January 1944 to screen cruiser Philadelphia off Anzio. She alternated at the bitterly contested Anzio beachhead with convoy duty between there and Naples until 20 March, often exchanging fire with German shore batteries off Anzio. After a brief respite the ship returned to her gunfire support duties at Anzio during April and early May, occasionally engaging in escort and antisubmarine patrol operations. With three escort vessels the destroyer detected and attacked U-616 off Algeria May 1944, sending it to the bottom after a lengthy battle 17 May.
During June and July Hilary P. Jones acted as escort ship for vital Mediterranean convoys and took part in training for the invasion of southern France. She departed Naples 13 August in convoy with French and British ships for the invasion, arriving 3 days later. The destroyer not only provided gunfire support missions during the assault, but also acted as electronic jamming vessel in the successful attempt to prevent radio-controlled bombs from harassing the area. In the weeks that followed she continued to range up and down the coast in support of the First Airborne Task Force destroying bridges, gun emplacements, railroad facilities and coastal vessels. She was attacked by a German “E-boat” 21 August, but destroyed the craft with gunfire. Neither these deadly boats nor submarine, nor human torpedoes stopped Hilary P. Jones from performing her vital missions, and for her outstanding record during this period the ship received the Navy Unit Commendation.
Detached from her coastal support duties 1 October 1944, the destroyer continued convoy duties in the Mediterranean until returning to New York 12 January 1945. Following overhaul and training off Casco Bay, Maine, she sailed with her last transatlantic convoy 26 February–9 April 1945. Hilary P. Jones was then designated for Pacific Fleet, and departed New York 24 April for the Canal Zone and Pearl Harbor.
Operating at Pearl Harbor from 18 May 1945, until 2 June, she then sailed for the advance base at Ulithi. Upon her arrival 13 June Hilary P. Jones joined the surface patrol forces in the Carolines, making occasional escort voyages to Okinawa, as Navy amphibious units moved ever closer to victory. At Ulithi when Japan surrendered, she steamed 18 August to Okinawa, Subic Bay, and then Tokyo. As an escort unit for 8th Army occupation troops, she entered Tokyo Bay 2 September as the surrender document was being executed on board Missouri. Subsequently, she made two more voyages with occupation groups to Japan before ending her long war service and departed for the United States 5 November.
Hilary P. Jones sailed to Charleston via Pearl Harbor and the Panama Canal and decommissioned there 6 February 1947. She was placed in the Charleston Group, Atlantic Reserve Fleet until being loaned to the Republic of China under the Military Assistance Program 26 February 1954. She serves the Nationalist Chinese Navy as Han Yang (DD-15).
In addition to her Navy Unit Commendation, Hilary P. Jones earned four service stars on her Asiatic-Pacific campaign ribbon.
Sources: DANFS, US Fleet Forces Command and shipmate Al Malcomson, USS Hilary P. Jones.