An unidentified Benham screens Enterprise (CV 6) in 1942.
Benham class
Ten more destroyers were ordered under the FY36 program with a layout similar to that of the Gridley class—the Benham class. Designed by Gibbs & Cox, the Benhams had three boilers at 565 psi instead of the Bagley class’ four at 400 psi, and thus did not need the Bagleys’ prominent boiler uptakes. Otherwise similar to the Bagleys in appearance, the Benhams were also the last class to displace a nominal 1500 tons, though they proved overweight by as much as ten per cent.

Benham and Ellet were at sea in the Pacific on 7 December 1941 with Dunlap and Fanning in DesDiv 12 (Destroyer Squadron 6, with Balch as flagship). Later, this four-ship division escorted Enterprise (CV 6) during the the Doolittle raid on Japan.

Meanwhile, in April 1940, the eight other ships of the class had been formed as Destroyer Squadron 8 with Wainwright as flagship and were serving on neutrality patrols and escort duty in the Atlantic and Mediterranean.


Length: 341' 2" overall; 333' 11-1/2" design waterline.1

Beam: 35' 5" molded maximum; 35' 6-1/8" outside of plating at design waterline.1

Freeboard: 21' 2-3/4" at bow; 10' 7-3/8" at stern.1

Displacement: 1,500 long tons design; 1,702 long tons to design waterline.1

Draft: 11' 5-1/2" mean; 13' 2-1/4" full load.3

Propulsion machinery: 4 x Babcock & Wilcox boilers; 400 psi, 645° F.; geared turbines; 50,000 shp; 2 shafts.3

Designed speed: 36.5 knots.2

Fuel bunkerage: 490.01 tons full load (95% of capacity).1

Endurance: 7,800 nm at 12 knots.3

Designed complement: 13 officers; 193 enlisted.3


Torpedo battery: Sixteen x 21-inch trainable torpedo tubes: two quadruple wing mounts on each side of the main deck abaft the stack, later reduced.

Main gun battery: 4 x dual purpose 5-inch/38 caliber guns: 2 forward in enclosed base ring mounts; 2 aft in open base ring mounts.

Anti-aircraft battery: 1938: 4 x .50 cal machine guns; 1944: 4 x 40mm Bofors in twin mounts; 6 x 20mm Oerlikon in single mounts; 1945: up to 8 x 40mm Bofors in four twin mounts; 8 x 20mm Oerlikon in four twin mounts mounts.

In June 1942, while DesDiv 15 (Lang, Stack, Sterett and Wilson) escorted Wasp (CV 7) to the Pacific, DesDiv 16 (Mayrant, Trippe, Rhind and Rowan) remained in the Atlantic, supporting the Operation “Torch” landings in North Africa in 1942 and then serving off Italy in 1943, where Mayrant was badly damaged and Rowan sunk. Continuing on escort duty, the survivors landed their after torpedo tube mounts so that their depth charge and machine gun batteries could be increased. A gunhouse was added to the No. 4 5-inch gun aft and a half-gun shield with canvas top was added to No. 3. These ships later received two twin 40mm Bofors on their after deckhouses before being transferred to the Pacific in 1945.

Meanwhile, the six Pacific destroyers operated in the Solomon Islands (were Ellet was ordered to sink the Australian heavy cruiser Canberra after the Battle of Savo Island), and were on hand for the Naval Battles of Guadalcanal, 13–15 November 1942, in which Sterett was badly damaged and Benham sunk. DesDiv 15 less Wilson (i.e. Lang, Sterett and Stack) formed division “A-2” at the Battle of Vella Gulf in 1943 and, thereafter, all five remaining ships accompanied the advance through the Marshalls and Marianas. Reassigned as DesDiv 4 of DesRon 2, the former DesDiv 15 ships were at Leyte and later Okinawa; Ellet was at Iwo Jima.

Eventually, these Pacific ships received the same 5-inch and 40mm mount modifications as the Atlantic ships. In 1945, Lang and Sterett also landed their remaining torpedo tubes and their after 5-inch shields in favor of a total of four 40mm and four 20mm twins.

In April 1945, Sterett and Wilson were both damaged in kamikaze attacks; Wilson remained in service and Sterett returned to service as the war ended.

Sterett, Ellet and Lang were scrapped in 1947. The others, contaminated as targets in the Bikini atom bomb tests, were decommissioned and scuttled in deep water in 1948.

1 Bureau of Construction and Repair’s General Information book for USS Benham, USS Ellet and USS Lang. Dimensions given for Benham.
2 Bauer and Roberts.
3 Friedman.