Paul Jones initially served in the Pacific Fleet, with a home port at San Francisco. A unit of the Pacific Torpedo Fleet, she was at San Francisco at the beginning of World War I.
Paul Jones sailed 23 April 1917 for Norfolk, Virginia via San Diego, Acapulco, the Canal Zone and Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, arriving 3 August. On 4 August she took station off the York River on patrol assignment until joining Duncan (No. 46), Henley (No. 39), Truxtun (No. 14), Stewart (No. 13), Preble (No. 12), Hull (No. 7), Macdonough (No. 9) and Hopkins (No. 6) as escorts for Battleship Force Atlantic, on 13 August, for passage to Bermuda and New York.
Paul Jones departed the Brooklyn Navy Yard on 24 August and reported to Newport, where she began a series of convoy patrols up and down the coast, returning on 24 September. She then commenced training operations in conjunction with other duties off Norfolk, Lynnhaven Roads and Chesapeake Bay, prior to reporting to Philadelphia 20 December.
On 15 January 1918, in company with Stewart, Hopkins and Worden (No. 16), Paul Jones sailed for the Azores by way of Bermuda. After departing Bermuda, she had to request permission to turn back due to a serious leak in her port after bunker. From 23–26 January, Paul Jones’ crew struggled magnificently against great odds and succeeded in saving the ship from sinking. Wallowing in stormy seas with her after fire room flooded, barely able to maintain headway, losing all drinking and feed water and steaming under two boilers with salt feed, manning bucket brigades for lack of operable pumps, and receiving no answers to her distress signals, she finally sighted a light at St. David’s Head, Bermuda, signaled the battery there for assistance and dropped anchor.
Paul Jones had an exhausted but very happy crew. She remained at Bermuda until 22 February for repairs and then sailed for Philadelphia escorted by Mars (AC-6), arriving 25 February. Following permanent repair at the Philadelphia Navy Yard, Paul Jones reported to Fortress Monroe, Virginia on 18 April and performed various duties in and around Chesapeake Bay until 6 August.
The highlight of Paul Jones’ career came on 2 July when Henderson was afire in the Atlantic north of Bermuda and east of Virginia. Paul Jones made four trips from the burning ship to Von Steuben, saving 1,250 Marines and officers together with over 50 tons of luggage. The next day she accompanied Henderson to the Delaware Breakwater.
While in convoy 7 August at sea, Paul Jones with several other ships in her group mistook the US submarine O-6 (SS-67) for an enemy submarine and fired upon her. The submarine was struck seven times in the conning tower before the mistake was apparent. Paul Jones escorted the damaged submarine to Delaware Bay, and arrived at the breakwater the following day.
On 9 August, Paul Jones reported at Hampton Roads and remained in and around Chesapeake Bay conducting mine patrols, convoy duties and other services until slated for inactivation on 31 January 1919. She decommissioned on 29 July 1919, was struck from the Naval Vessel Register on 15 September 1919 and was sold on 3 January 1920 to Joseph G. Hitner, Philadelphia, who subsequently scrapped her.