Mugford and Patterson in gunnery practice inside the Great Barrier Reef off Palm Island, Australia, 9 October 1942.

Caution: The purpose of this essay is to identify operations for which service stars were earned as indicated in the accompanying table. It has been compiled from secondary sources such as the Dictionary of American Fighting Ships which, in most cases, are silent about squadrons and divisions. Some statements, particularly regarding the dates of organization changes, reflect educated guesses. Verification will require examination of records such as war diaries and deck logs.

Destroyer Squadron 4 in World War II initially consisted of Porter-class flagship Selfridge and the eight Bagley-class destroyers of 1937.

The squadron was present at Pearl Harbor when the Japanese attacked on 7 December 1941. Later that month, it screened RAdm. Frank F. Fletcher’s Saratoga task force with cruisers Minneapolis, Astoria and San Francisco during the aborted relief of Wake Island. Four DesRon 4 destroyers also participated in sorties in February-March 1942:

  • Bagley and Patterson with DesRon 1 screening Lexington, Indianapolis, Minneapolis, Pensacola and San Francisco in VAdm. Wilson Brown Jr.’s raids on Bougainville on 20 February and Salamaua-Lae on 10 March.
  • Blue and Ralph Talbot with Enterprise, Northampton, Salt Lake City and elements of DesRon 5 in VAdm. William F. Halsey Jr.’s Task Force 8 to strike Wake on 24 February and Marcus Island on 4 March.
Destroyer Squadron 4
1 October 1941
USS Selfridge (DD 357), flag
Destroyer Division 7
USS Bagley (DD 386)
USS Blue (DD 387)
USS Helm (DD 388)
USS Henley (DD 391)
Destroyer Division 8
USS Mugford (DD 389)
USS Ralph Talbot (DD 390)
USS Patterson (DD 392)
USS Jarvis (DD 393)

In June, the squadron was transferred to Australia, where it joined cruisers HMAS Australia, Canberra and Hobart and USS Chicago in forming Task Force 44 under RAdm. Victor A.C. Crutchley, RN. In August, this force—as Task Force 62.2—led the landings at Guadalcanal that commenced Operation “Watchtower.”

  • On 7 August, the morning of the landings, Mugford was bombed and slightly damaged in Sealark (later Ironbottom) Sound.
  • On the 8th, Jarvis was torpedoed there by an enemy plane. After departing the area the next night in a bid to reach destroyer tender Dobbin in Sydney, she was lost with all hands.

On the night of 9 August, a Japanese cruiser force closed Guadalcanal and, at the Battle of Savo Island, surprised Allied cruisers and destroyers protecting transports anchored offshore. In this action:

  • Picket destroyers Blue and Ralph Talbot failed to detect the Japanese column as it approached and were undamaged, but Ralph Talbot was later nearly sunk as the Japanese retired.
  • Bagley and Patterson screened Canberra and Chicago. Patterson, first to detect the enemy, was slightly damaged. She and Blue rescued survivors when Canberra sank the following day.
  • World War II Operations of the destroyers
    originally attached to Destroyer Squadron 4
    DesRon 4 operations

  • Helm and Wilson screened cruisers Vincennes, Quincy and Astoria, all three of which were sunk. Bagley rescued approximately 450 survivors.

On 21–22 August, Blue, Helm and Henley were screening the transport area when Japanese destroyer Kawakaze surprised and torpedoed Blue. She was scuttled the next day.

During the Battle of the Eastern Solomons on the 24th, Selfridge was attached to RAdm. Leigh Noyes’ Task Force 61.3 with destroyers of DesDiv 15 and DesRon 12 screening Wasp.

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Mugford had her battle damage repaired in Sydney and remained in Australia, where she was joined over time by Selfridge, Bagley, Helm, Henley and Patterson. Thus, when the US Navy was reorganized on 15 March 1943, DesRon 4 was already in position to become the destroyer force of the new Seventh Fleet. In May, however, it was relieved by DesRon 5.

During the remainder of 1943, the squadron operated on both axes of Operation “Cartwheel,” the advance toward Rabaul.

Ralph Talbot and Patterson were active in Operation “Toenails,” the New Georgia campaign:

DesRon 4 in Operation “Toenails,” June–December 1943.

DesRon 4 in Operation “Toenails,” June–December 1943.

  • On 30 June, Ralph Talbot helped cover the landings at Rendova Island that commenced the campaign and rescued 300 survivors when the amphibious force flagship McCawley was sunk. On 5 July, she supported landings at Rice Anchorage, New Georgia Island. On the night of the 12–13th, she joined DesRon 12 in the rear of a cruiser-destroyer formation under RAdm. Walden L. Ainsworth sweeping up the “Slot.” After the resulting Battle of Kolombangara, she scuttled damaged DesRon 12 flagship Gwin with torpedoes.
  • On 25 August, Patterson sank submarine RO-35 off San Cristobal Island. On the night of 29–30 September, she was rammed by McCalla and retired to Espiritu Santo to receive a false bow and then to Mare Island for permanent repairs.
  • On 7 October, Selfridge lost her bow to an enemy destroyer torpedo while leading Chevalier and O’Bannon at the Battle of Vella Lavella. Ralph Talbot, Taylor and La Vallette arrived in the area too late to participate in the battle.
DesRon 4 in Operation “Chronicle,” July–December 1943.

DesRon 4 in Operation “Chronicle,” July–December 1943.

Meanwhile, operating with MacArthur’s Seventh Fleet from Milne Bay up the New Guinea coast toward the Bismarck Sea in Operation “Chronicle,” Bagley, Helm and Mugford supported the invasion of Woodlark Island in July 1943, conducted shore bombardment and patrols in August, and escorted LSTs for the landing at Lae on 4 September. Later that month Henley and Mugford supported the seizure of Finschhafen where, on 3 October, submarine RO-108 torpedoed and sank Henley.

On 20 October, Bagley and Mugford were escorting auxiliaries there when 60 enemy aircraft from Rabaul attacked. Neither was hit. In December, these two destroyers advanced to New Britain for landings at Arawe on the 14th. On the 26th, they plus Helm and Ralph Talbot did it again at Cape Gloucester. They continued on to Saidor in January 1944.

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In February 1944, all five ships of DesRon 4 were on the West Coast for overhaul. In March–July, they returned for escort duty with the VAdm. Willis A. Lee’s Fifth Fleet battleships in the Marshalls and Marianas and provided fire support at Saipan and Tinian. In October, they were reassigned to DesRon 6Helm going to DesDiv 11 and Bagley, Mugford, Ralph Talbot and Patterson forming DesDiv 12.
Destroyer Squadron 4
October 1944
Destroyer Division 7
USS Cummings (DD 365)
USS Lamson (DD 367)
USS Case (DD 370)
USS Dunlap (DD 384), flag
USS Fanning (DD 385)
Destroyer Division 8
USS Cassin (DD 372)
USS Downes (DD 375)
USS Ellet (DD 398), flag
USS Roe (DD 418)

In their place, the four destroyers of DesDiv 12 (DesRon 6)—Dunlap, Fanning, Case and Cummings—plus Lamson were reassigned as DesDiv 7 while Cassin and Downes from DesDiv 5, Ellet, most recently from DesRon 2, plus ex-DesRon 11 flagship Roe from the Atlantic formed the new DesDiv 8.

Operating from the Marianas on the 9 October, Cassin and Downes screened heavy cruisers Chester, Pensacola and Salt Lake City in bombarding Marcus Island as a diversion for a raid on Formosa, and then joined Task Group 38.1 for strikes on the Philippines in conjunction with the invasion of Leyte beginning on the 18th.

Operating from Ulithi in November, Case bombarded Iwo Jima and, on the 20th rammed and sank a Japanese midget submarine at Ulithi’s Mugai Channel. On 24 December, while bombarding Iwo Jima, Case and Roe sank a Japanese transport. They returned to Iwo Jima in January for antisubmarine patrol during the landings and remained in the area on antisubmarine patrol, air-sea rescue and radar picket duty until the close of the war.

On 19 June 1945, Dunlap sank an enemy craft attempting to evacuate Chichi Jima and picked up 52 survivors. She returned there on 31 August to host the surrender of the Bonin Islands.

Sources: Morison, Rohwer, Roscoe, Hyperwar: United States Fleet Pacific Organization, 1 May 1945; Naval History & Heritage Command including Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships histories for individual ships.