Aylwin off Philadelphia Navy Yard, 30 March 1935.
The third Aylwin (DD-355) was laid down on 23 September 1933 by the Philadelphia Navy Yard launched on 10 July 1934; sponsored by Miss Elizabeth M. Farley, the 11-year old daughter of Postmaster General James M. Farley, and commissioned on 1 March 1935, Comdr. Clarence Gulbranson in command.

Following builders’ trials late in March, and fitting out, the destroyer shifted to the Naval Torpedo Station, Newport, R.I., to load eight torpedo warheads. At the end of further trials, she returned to Philadelphia on 8 May to prepare for shakedown.

On 22 May, Aylwin sailed for a cruise that took her to European countries. She stopped at Port Leixões (Oporto), Portugal, on 1 June and at Santander, Spain, on the 5th, before shifting to Cherbourg, France, on the 10th. Five days later, the Honorable Jesse I. Strauss, the United States Ambassador to France, inspected the new destroyer.

The warship next visited Bremen, Germany from 19 to 24 June, before sailing for Goteborg, Sweden, and a five-day visit. Then, after getting underway for Belgium on the 29th, she reached Brussels late on 2 July and there received her only royal visit when, on the morning of the 8th, King Leopold III and Queen Astrid came on board for an hour’s inspection.

The ship visited Dover, England, before heading homeward on 15 July. She reached Philadelphia on the 22d, received post shakedown repairs, and conducted further trials that lasted until 1 October, when she put to sea to join the Fleet. She fell in with her sister ship Hull (DD-350) the next day, and the two ships reached Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, on the 5th, where Aylwin unloaded a cargo of light freight. After transiting the Panama Canal on 7 October she paused briefly at Balboa, Canal Zone before sailing on the 10th for a plane-guard station off Champerico, Guatemala, to provide a directional bearing along the projected track of the experimental flying boat XP3Y-1, the prototype of the PBY “Catalina” which would win fame during World War II. This plane had already completed a non-stop flight from Norfolk to Coco Solo, Canal Zone, and, as an “encore,” would fly, again non-stop, from Coco Solo to San Francisco.

Aylwin reached her assigned position on 13 October and, the next morning, began laying smoke to serve as marker for the plane. The destroyer’s lookouts sighted the plane at 1238, and it passed directly overhead seven minutes later. Ultimately, the XP3Y-1 reached San Francisco Bay on 15 October, having set a new international distance record for seaplane flights—3,281.402 statute miles.

The destroyer rejoined Hull the next day, and the two ships steamed into San Diego harbor on the 19th. After a visit to Stockton, Calif., from 26 to 29 October, Aylwin began her peacetime duty with the Fleet, operating off the coast of southern California in flotilla tactics, torpedo attacks, short range battle practices, and sound training rums with the submarines Nautilus (SS-168) and Cuttlefish (SS-171).

On 10 February 1936, Aylwin departed San Diego and entered the Mare Island Navy Yard on the following day for repairs and alterations. She ran her post-repair trials on 3 April.

Following brief operations off Pyramid Cove, San Clemente Island, Aylwin sailed for the Canal Zone on 27 April to participate in Fleet Problem XVII, a five-phased evolution designed to advance the strategical, tactical, and logistical training of the fleet in a wide variety of areas, including antisubmarine warfare offensive operations of submarines, and the development of aircraft and surface scouting techniques. The problem pitted the Battle Force against a submarine-augmented Scouting Force.

As the opposing forces engaged off the west coast of Central America near the Panama Canal, Aylwin conducted simulated gun attacks on “enemy” destroyers and torpedo attacks on the “enemy” battle line. she anchored off Balboa on 9 May, refueled the following day, and resumed her participation in the fleet problem on the 16th as part of the “Green” fleet.

After the exercises, Aylwin sailed to Peru and arrived at Callao on the morning of 28 May. That day, Rear Admiral Sinclair Gannon, Commander, Destroyers, Scouting Force, broke his flag in Aylwin. Winding up her Peruvian visit on 2 June, she got underway for California, but paused in Panama Bay from 6 to 8 June before continuing on to San Diego. Aylwin reached her home port on the morning of 16 June and moored alongside Dobbin (AD-3). That afternoon, Rear Admiral Gannon transferred his flea to the destroyer tender.

On 6 July Aylwin got underway for the Pacific Northwest and reached Port Angeles, Wash., on the 9th. She sailed thence via the inland passage to Alaska and arrived at Cordova on the 13th. Following a subsequent visit to Kodiak, a return call at Port Angeles, and tender upkeep there alongside Dobbin, the destroyer conducted sound tracking exercises at Admiralty Bay, Port Townsend, Wash. She visited Portland, Oreg., from 5 to 10 August before heading home where she arrived on the 13th.

A week later, she got underway for tactical exercises in company with Worden (DD-352) and Monaghan (DD-354), but they soon commenced looking for the overdue San Diego-based tuna boat SS San Joaquin, last reported in their vicinity. The Coast Guard cutter Tahoe joined the search on 21 August, and the cutter Aurora began the next day. On the 23d, Aylwin and the other ships, sailing in a scouting line, searched for the overdue full-rigged ship Pacific Queen. Although they did not find either vessel, it seems that neither was lost, since both appeared on merchant vessel registers for some years thereafter. In fact the latter—bearing her original name, Balclutha—served as a floating museum berthed at San Francisco’s Fisherman’s Wharf into the 1980’s.

Aylwin operated in the southern California area until sailing on 16 April 1937 for the Hawaiian Islands to participate in Fleet Problem XVIII. Forming up with the “Hilo Detachment” on the 21st, Aylwin conducted a mock bombardment of Hilo before deploying to screen Houston (CA-30) and Ranger (CV-4) as they covered a simulated landing.

Putting into Pearl Harbor on 25 April, Aylwin got underway on 4 May as part of the “White” Force Rated as “damaged” in an initial phase of the action on 8 May Aylwin shaped course to rendezvous with “friendly” units that morning and drove off two “strafing’ attacks by “Black” planes en route. She sighted what appeared to be the “White” battle line at 0640 and altered course to join, but discovered that the ships were, in fact, counted as “out of action.”

Thus now virtually “alone,” Aylwin came about and headed for Lahaina. The beleaguered ship found no solace en route, however, for she spotted three fast minelayers closing from six miles away, and after identifying them as “enemy, went to general quarters at 0730, “opening fire” three minutes later. However, the umpires quickly declared her hors de combat so she joined her “out of action” consorts soon thereafter.

Aylwin returned to San Diego on 28 May 1937 and, after two weeks of upkeep alongside Whitney, resumed her training schedule. During the last days of June, she operated in company with Mississippi (BB-41) as that ship conducted battle practice off Santa Barbara Island in company with the radio-controlled, high-speed target ship Lamberton (AG-21).

For the rest of 1937 and the winter months of early 1938, Aylwin maintained what had become standard routine, alternating periods in port for upkeep with time training at sea in the southern California operating area. From 6 to 9 January 1938 she participated in the search for a lost patrol plane from Patrol Squadron (VP) 7. After firing antiaircraft practices in early February, the ship proceeded to the Destroyer Base, San Diego for her yearly hull inspection in the floating drydock ARD-1 and then proceeded to the Mare Island Navy Yard for a brief overhaul.

Following those repairs, Aylwin arrived at San Diego on the 6th, just in time to participate in Fleet Problem XIX. The “Black’ Fleet put to sea from San Diego at 0325 on 15 March. As part of the ‘White” Fleet, Aylwin got underway at 1640 and soon joined the remainder of Destroyer Flotilla 1 and the aircraft carrier Ranger (CV-4).

Searching for the enemy “main body” on the 17th, she fell in with Chicago (CA-29), Quincy (CA-39), Chester (CA-27), and Portland (CA-33) on the following morning. That afternoon, the cruisers made contact, attacked, and retired under cover of a smoke screen. Aylwin regained sight of the “enemy” and took up a position a safe distance astern to trail them through the 19th.

After fueling from Idaho (BB 42) on the 20th, the destroyer conducted exercises in subsequent phases of Fleet Problem IX until supporting a mock landing at Lahaina. At the outset, she lay-to between the islands of Molokai, Lanai, and Maui before standing in toward the “beachhead” to support the landing of troops. She conducted a brief minesweeping drill before refueling from Brazos (AO-4) and then anchoring at Lahaina Roads for a brief respite.

From 4 to 8 April, Aylwin again was underway participating in further exercises before putting into Pearl Harbor. When the fleet sortied on the morning of the 18th, she ranged ahead of the departing battleships alert for possible “submarine” activity. Ultimately, Aylwin participated in the closing phases of Fleet Problem XIX, which had been conducted in three separate phases, each a small fleet problem in itself. As in Fleet Problem XVII, the exercises also tested the ability of the fleet to seize and hold advanced bases, indicating the Navy’s Pacific-minded planning.

The destroyer returned to San Diego on 28 April and, on 9 May, resumed her coastwise training schedule. She underwent brief upkeep alongside Whitney before getting underway on 21 June for the Pacific Northwest and cruising alone the coast through July, touching at such places as Port Angeles, Wash.; Ketchikan, Territory of Alaska, Humpback Bay, Wrangell Narrows, Taku Inlet, Yakutat Bay, Sitka, Seattle, and finally, Portland, Oreg. She returned via San Francisco to San Diego in mid-August, underwent tender upkeep alongside Whitney, and conducted training off the Southern California coast before getting underway on 26 September for Hawaii.

Reaching Pearl Harbor on 2 October, Aylwin underwent repairs and alterations there through November. She arrived back at San Diego on 12 December and conducted training exercises off the South Coronados Island of Mexico before ending the year 1938 berthed in a destroyer nest in San Diego harbor.

Four days into 1939, Aylwin got underway for Panama and reached Balboa on 13 January. After transiting the Panama Canal the next day, she operated out of Gonaives, Haiti, Guantánamo Bay Cuba, and, Port-au-Prince, Haiti, before getting [under way] on the 13th for her initial station during Fleet Problem XX.

These exercises, slated to take place in the Caribbean, were formulated to test the ability of an American fleet to control the Caribbean Sea lanes while maintaining sufficient naval strength in the Pacific to protect vital United States interests there and to exercise the fleet in: long-range search operations, the protection of merchantmen, the establishment and defense of advanced bases, and the conduct of the inevitable fleet battle. They arrayed the Battle Force against the Scouting Force.

After fueling from Maryland (BB-46) on 17 February, Aylwin operated with Lexington (CV-2) and Enterprise (CV-6) which acted as a raiding force during one phase of the problem. Ultimately, the “battle” reached its conclusion, the fleet battle. The forces then all retired to Culebra Bay, Puerto Rico, where President Roosevelt reviewed them from the deck of Houston on the last day of February.

After visiting Cienfuegos and Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, Aylwin operated briefly out of Gonaives before returning to Guantánamo on 31 March. She got underway on 8 April for Yorktown, Va. and, en route north, acted as plane guard for Lexington. Aylwin reached Yorktown on 12 April, but the Fleet’s visit to that area was soon cut short by orders to return to the Pacific. Speculation ran rampant through the Fleet that Washington was very concerned about possible aggressive moves by the Japanese.

Underway at 0404 on 20 April, Aylwin took station with the rest of her division around the carriers. She plane guarded for Yorktown (CV-5) en route to Panama, transited the Canal on 29 April, and, after tarrying briefly at Balboa, got underway for San Diego on 2 May. Reaching her home port on the 12th, the destroyer operated off southern California before entering the Mare island Navy Yard on 18 June for repairs and alterations lasting until 8 October. She got underway on the morning of 11 October, bound once more for Hawaii.

The administration, harboring strong concern over Japan’s aggressive course in the Far East, determined that a show of force was necessary. Accordingly, the Navy formed a “Hawaiian Detachment” under Vice Admiral Adolphus Andrews and based it at Pearl Harbor—a step foreshadowing the basing of the entire Fleet there the following spring.

Aylwin arrived at Pearl Harbor on 18 October 1939 and, over the next few months, alternated periods in port at “Pearl” with varied exercises in the Hawaiian operating area. In the spring of 1940, Aylwin, as a unit of the “maroon” fleet, participated in Fleet Problem XXI, the last pre-war fleet problem. Indicative of the Fleet’s security-mindedness at that time, Aylwin alternated with other destroyers conducting “security patrols” off the port of Honolulu and off Pearl Harbor’s entrance during the course of the evolutions, investigating all vessels sighted, including small fishing craft.

Detachments from the Fleet were rotated back to the west coast at intervals. Aylwin thus returned briefly to the west coast during the summer of 1940, reaching San Diego on 9 July before shifting to the Mare Island Navy Yard on the 14th. She underwent repairs and alterations there until 22 September before returning, via San Diego, to Pearl Harbor on 21 October.

From that port, Aylwin maintained her normal routine into the critical year 1941. On 7 February 1941, she put to sea and, after rendezvousing with aircraft carrier Enterprise and sister destroyer Farragut, headed back to the west coast for a brief visit. They arrived at San Diego on 13, February, but turned around again two days later and rejoined Enterprise—which was ferrying a shipment of the latest Army fighter aircraft to Hawaii. The three ships reached Oahu on 21 February.

On 17 March, Aylwin left Pearl Harbor for off-shore patrol and exercises. Two days later, the ship conducted a two-hour night tactical exercise on a dark, moonless night, commencing at 2000. At its conclusion, all destroyers were directed to proceed to a rendezvous astern of the fleet’s center. At 2251, Aylwin turned on her running and fighting lights and sighted a ship materializing out of the murk on her port bow. Aylwin maintained her course and speed until backing emergency full at 2303. At that point, the other ship, Farragut, loomed on a collision course and also backed to avoid contact. Shortly after 2304 Farragut’s bow sliced into Aylwin’s port side at a 90-degree angle, causing extensive damage for about 23 frames and nearly severing Aylwin’s bow.

A fire immediately blazed up as high as Aylwin’s masthead, illuminating the two ships and quickly spread aft through the wardroom and into the area occupied by the ships officers’ cabins. Aylwin’s electrical installation burned with intense heat until controlled at 0140 on the 20th. Fire parties from Dale, Stack (DD-406), Philadelphia (CL-41), and Sterett (DD-407) all contributed men to help contain the blaze; and a party from Indianapolis joined the one from Philadelphia in assessing the damage and making temporary repairs.

Detroit (CL-8) attempted to tow Aylwin back to Pearl Harbor but the cable parted. Turkey (AM-13) soon picked up the damaged destroyer and towed her to port stern first. Following extensive repairs in drydock Aylwin resumed her operations in the Hawaiian waters. After conducting her last peacetime training late in November, she moored to buoy X-14 at 1347 on the 28th, and remained there into the first week of December. On the night of the 6th, her watch logged in some of the last peacetime ship movements into, or out of, Pearl Harbor, duly noting the arrival of the oiler Neosho (AO-23) and the departure of the destroyer Litchfield (DD-336).

As Aylwin lay moored in a nest with her squadron mates on the morning of 7 December 1941, one small boiler was in operation to provide enough power for auxiliary services on board. Approximately half of her men were enjoying leave and liberty that weekend. At 0755 that Sunday morning, shortly before morning colors, the sound of airplane engines surprised Aylwin’s men and countless other bluejackets. At that time, Japanese planes torpedoed the target ship Utah (AG-16) moored to a quay off Ford Island.

Three minutes later, Aylwin’s guns began to speak, both her main battery and the .50-caliber machine guns. At 0800, the “black gang” lit fires under two boilers, cutting them in on her main steam line within 15 minutes. At 0829, Commander, Destroyers Battle Force directed his ships to get underway. Monaghan, soon after beginning to move toward the harbor entrance at 0845, encountered a midget submarine and rammed and sank the small submersible. At about 0850, a Japanese plane dropped a bomb that exploded some 75 yards off Aylwin’s starboard bow. Eight minutes later, Aylwin, leaving her stern wire and anchor chain behind, headed for the channel and the open sea.

The destroyer, manned by 50 percent of her crew under the direction of four ensigns—the senior officer, Ensign Caplan, had served at sea for only some eight months—proceeded out of Pearl Harbor, stripping ship for war and simultaneously maintaining a “continuous fire.” Her machine gunners claimed to have splashed at least three aircraft, but, in the light of the tremendous volume of antiaircraft fire from all ships, her “kiss” cannot be proven conclusively.

As Aylwin raced out to sea, those men topside who chanced to look astern beheld a curious sight, her captain, Lt. Comdr. Robert H. Rodgers, and other officers, in a motor launch about 1,000 yards off the entrance buoys. Nevertheless, in view of ComDesRon 1’s instructions, Aylwin could not slow down, but instead headed out to sea for patrol duty leaving most of her officers orphans on board the old flush-decker Chew (DD-106).

A little less than a half hour later, Aylwin investigated a reported submarine sighting, but found nothing. During the patrol, the destroyer vibrated abnormally because of a screw damaged soon after she got underway when a bomb explosion near her starboard quarter threw her stern into a buoy.

On 12 December, after the smoke over Oahu had cleared Comdr. Rodgers heaped praise on his abbreviated crew for their actions in the first flush of war: “The conduct of the personnel was magnificent .... Every man more than did his job and was eager to fight.” Of Ensign Caplan, Rodgers wrote, “The conduct (of this man) … in superbly taking command for 36 hours during war operations of the severest type is a most amazing and outstanding achievement.”

Late on the afternoon of 8 December, Aylwin followed the Enterprise task force into Pearl Harbor and picked up Rodgers and the division commander, Comdr. R. S. Riggs, on the way into the channel. The next day, Aylwin got underway and conducted antisubmarine patrols in sector 2, off the entrance to Pearl Harbor. She made a sound contact on 10 December. After going to general quarters, she dropped a five-charge pattern. Farragut joined her in the hunt, but neither ship found the quarry. Entering Pearl Harbor again on the 11th, Aylwin underwent repairs to her damaged propeller.

Meanwhile, plans matured for an operation a part of which was hoped to be the first American offensive action of the war, the relief of Wake Island. One task force would head for Wake with relief aircraft in Saratoga (CV-3) a second force built around Lexington, would raid the Mandated Islands as a diversion.

Aylwin sortied as part of the latter at 1103 on 14 December and, along with the heavy cruisers Chicago and Portland and the destroyer Phelps (DD-361), took station ahead of Lexington. The next day, destroyers Dewey and Worden, the cruiser Indianapolis, and the oiler Neosho joined the force. On the 20th, Aylwin’s war diarist recorded: “Up to this point, the force had been headed for a bombing and bombardment of Wotje Island, in the Marshalls. Now we were to try to save Wake.”

However, time was running out for the American Marines on that little atoll. Two Japanese carriers had joined the forces attempting to reduce the valiant defenders. This move prompted a careful reconsideration and resulting cancellation of the relief attempt. The terse entry in Aylwin’s war diary for 23 December reveals little of the bitter disappointment felt by all hands in the relief effort: “At 0758 (the) force was informed by dispatch that a large portion of the Jap fleet was concentrated just beyond Wake Island and that we were to proceed back to Pearl Harbor ....” Wake fell on that same day.

After investigating several suspected submarine contacts en route, Aylwin covered the arrival of TF 11 at Pearl Harbor three days after Christmas. On the last day of 1941, Aylwin sortied from Pearl Harbor in the screen of a convoy taking evacuees from the Hawaiian Islands to the west coast where she served five days into 1942.

Aylwin then underwent repairs and alterations in the Mare Island Navy Yard until 10 January, receiving new 20-millimeter machine guns to increase her close-in antiaircraft capability. Two days later, she sailed with Perkins (DD-377) to escort the liners President Coolidge, President Monroe, and Mariposa to San Francisco. Underway again on the 17th, Aylwin and Perkins escorted a convoy consisting of Neosho, Castor (AKS-1), Pyro (AE-1), and Crescent City (AP-40) back to Oahu where they arrived on the 25th.

On the last day of January, the destroyer sortied with TF 11 formed around Lexington and performed plane—guard duties for that carrier as she moved southwestward toward New Guinea. After accidentally firing a live torpedo in Hull’s direction during surface attack maneuvers on 13 February, Aylwin warned her sister shin by blinker, enabling the latter to sheer away out of danger. Aylwin followed the errant “fish” at 28 knots until it sank at the end of a normal run.

Three days later, the ANZAC command cruise force—Chicago, HMNZS Leander, HMNZS Achilles, and HMAS Australia, screened by Lamson (DD-367) and Perkins—pulled into sight. As the destroyers formed a circular screen, the heavy ships hove to and transferred officers for a conference. Shortly thereafter TF 11 reformed and assumed a northwesterly course toward Bougainville Island and the Bismarck Archipelago.

Unfortunately, before a raid against the key Japanese base at Rabaul could be launched, Japanese reconnaissance planes discovered the task force. Accordingly, 17 land-based Mitsubishi G4M bombers (later code-named “Betties”) set out from Rabaul.

Lexington’s CXAM air search radar picked up the incoming raiders at 1030, and the task force increased speed to 21 knots. As the enemy formation approached, lookouts could see that the carrier’s fighters were already shrinking the enemy’s numbers. In fact, during the defense of their carrier, Fighting Squadron (VF) 3 pilots performed most creditably. One pilot, Lt. Edward H. “Butch” O’Hare, downed five or six enemy planes in about as many minutes.

While Lexington’s Grumman “Wildcats” above were thinning out the attackers, the ships’ gunners below were also helping out putting up a tremendous barrage of antiaircraft fire. Aylwin’s spotters noted one enemy bomber falling in flames after bursts from their ship had exploded in its vicinity. Then when a second wave attempted to breach the screen of the task force, Aylwin’s 20-millimeter guns downed an enemy bomber attempting to crash into the stern of nearby Bagley (DD-386). “By 1712,” recorded Aylwin’s diarist, “no enemy planes were in view and ship ceased firing, having expended 305 rounds.” The force’s gunnery had been good, for the following day Aylwin’s historian would write: “OTC [officer in tactical command] reported to the Task Force that of an estimated 18 planes that attacked the formation yesterday only one probably returned safely to his base at Rabaul ….” No ship in the formation was damaged.

However, since it had been discovered, the American force retired from the area. Aylwin soon left TF 11 to escort the fleet oiler Platte (AO-24) to Pago Pago, Samoa, and then shepherded that vital auxiliary back to Pearl Harbor, reaching port on 8 March.

Two days later, Aylwin began screening the 18 ships of convoy 4072 from Honolulu to San Francisco Bay where they arrived on 22 March. Following repairs at the Mare Island Navy Yard she sortied on the 31st as part of the screen for Hawaii-bound convoy 2054.

Reaching Pearl Harbor on 12 April, Aylwin returned to sea on the 15th with TF 11. En route to the South Pacific on the 18th, Lexington flew off a squadron of 14 Marine Brewster F2A-3’s (the reconstituted VMF-211) to Palmyra Island.

Meanwhile, intelligence reported a substantial enemy movement toward New Guinea and Australia, probably aimed at strategic Port Moresby. Accordingly, on 26 April, Lexington and her screen received orders to rendezvous with TF 17 on 1 May. When they met that morning, the two forces came under the latter’s commander, Rear Admiral Frank Jack Fletcher, in Yorktown. Aylwin was assigned to Lexington’s plane guard.

The next few days passed quietly until, about two hours after securing from usual dawn general quarters alert on 7 May, Aylwin received word that an enemy force of two carriers and four cruisers was some 200 miles distant. At 0955, Aylwin observed Lexington launch fighters and torpedo planes for the attack. Shortly thereafter, Yorktown’s aircraft also took to the air.

The American planes sank the Japanese light carrier Shoho but did not touch the other enemy carriers—Pearl Harbor veterans Zuikaku and Shokaku. Three of their planes which hunted fruitlessly for the American task force entered Yorktown’s landing circle at 1910, but antiaircraft fire knocked down one and forced the other two away.

Other Japanese planes, though, acting on an erroneous sighting of a carrier and cruiser, dispatched the oiler Neosho and destroyer Sims (DD-409). At 0114 on the 8th, Monaghan received orders to leave the disposition and search for survivors of the two ill-fated ships.

Later that morning, Lexington’s radar picked up an aircraft contact 18 miles distant, while American scouts almost simultaneously picked up the scent of the enemy’s two carriers, four cruisers, and three destroyers. Soon thereafter, the enemy character of that force established definitely, Yorktown and Lexington launched their strike forces at 0900 and 0905, respectively.

Meanwhile, Aylwin had been at general quarters since 0844 and, when enemy planes were reported closing two hours later, took station between the heavy cruisers Chester and New Orleans (CA-32), 3,000 yards from Yorktown. She maintained that position during the ensuing battle, conforming her movements to those of Yorktown. She fired red 150 rounds of 5-inch ammunition and 950 rounds of 20-millimeter fighting the enemy planes.

Other ships were not so fortunate. Yorktown had been damaged, as had Lexington, the latter fatally. After an SBD-3 of Scouting Squadron (VS) 5 (Yorktown) ditched near Aylwin, the destroyer altered course to pick up the pilot, Ens. J. H. Jorgenson, USNR, and his rear-seat man, Radioman 3d Class A. W. Brunetti

Steaming through an oily wake caused by fuel spilling from a ruptured tank in Lexington, Aylwin observed smoke issuing from the wounded carrier’s starboard quarter as she rejoined the formation at 1405. At about the same time, returning American aircraft drew fire from jittery gunners in some of the ships of the screen before their “friendly” character was established.

Lexington, rocked by internal explosions and ravaged by uncontrollable fires, ultimately had to be sunk by American torpedoes. Soon thereafter, the task force retired from the scene of battle toward the Tonga Islands. While alongside New Orleans to refuel two days later, Aylwin rigged breeches buoys forward and aft, and took on board 37 officers and 92 enlisted men from Lexington and one Yorktown pilot, Lt. (jg.) E. S. McCuskey, of VF-42, who would later become an “ace” in the Battle of Midway. That task completed, the destroyer cast off and resumed her screening duties.

On the morning of 15 May, Aylwin drew alongside Yorktown and transferred charts of the Tonga Islands to the carrier. Less than an hour later, while the carrier’s planes flew protective cover, TF 17 entered Nuknalofa Harbor, Tongatabu, where Aylwin transferred her passengers to Portland while fueling from the heavy cruiser. She then served entrance guard until relieved by Anderson (DD-411) the following day

In turn relieving Hammann (DD-412) on the morning of the 17th, Aylwin patrolled off the entrance to the harbor during the sortie of TF 17 from Nukualofa and then joined Astoria (CA--34) in escorting transport Barnett (AP-11)—carrying Lexington survivors gathered from all rescue ships of the task force on the first leg of her voyage back to the west coast of the United States. Later that day, after Barnett suffered an engine casualty, Aylwin remained with the transport until she completed the repairs. Six days later, TF 17 reached Pearl Harbor.

The following day, 28 May, Aylwin got underway to sortie in the screen of Enterprise and Hornet (CV-8) as those carriers proceeded to waters north of Midway to lie in ambush for a Japanese armada heading for that important atoll. While the task force steamed northwestward in the days that followed, the ships in its screen fired their alms against 5-inch bursts which in turn had been fired to simulate all varieties of air attack—dive bombing and torpedo-bombing included. As the ships neared the optimistically named “Point Luck,” the pace of training slowed to one of watchful waiting. Then after a day or so of “sparring,” the contest began in earnest on 4 June, as Midway’s radar picked up the approaching enemy.

Enterprise and Hornet launched strikes as did Yorktown almost miraculously repaired after being severely damaged during the battle of the Coral Sea. The torpedo planes from the American carriers suffered grievous losses from Japanese flak and fighters but dive bombers from Yorktown and Enterprise fared better dropping lethal loads of bombs on Akagi, Kaga, and Soryu that turned all three into burning and exploding cauldrons.

The Japanese planes managed to locate TF 17 and launched a determined attack that stopped Yorktown dead in the water. That carrier’s crew managed to get her underway again, but a second Japanese attack hit her again, causing her abandonment Later that day, American carrier-based planes sent the fourth Japanese carrier, Hiryu to a watery grave. A Japanese submarine subsequently caught Yorktown while she was being salvaged and scored fatal torpedo hits.

The Battle of Midway stopped Japan’s thrust across the Pacific and cost her four Irreplaceable carriers and many trained sailors and airmen. Allied prospects in that part of the world brightened after the Battle of the Coral Sea and began to glare after Midway.

On 11 June, Aylwin broke off from Hawaii-bound TF 16 to escort oiler Kaskaskia (AO-27) northward toward the Aleutian Islands to fuel the warships of TF 8. Over the next five days, the two ships proceeded through foggy and rainy weather until meeting Humphries (DD-236) and Gilmer (DD-233) on 16 June. Aylwin screened while the older “flush-deckers” fueled from Kaskaskia.

The following day, Aylwin joined TF 8—which included heavy cruiser Louisville (CA-28), three light cruisers, and six destroyers—for operations in the inhospitable northern waters. But for two escort runs to Women’s Bay, Kodiak Island, Alaska she worked with that task force until getting underway on 10 July to escort Kaskaskia back to the Hawaiian Islands. On the 13th, the oiler transferred her, remaining fuel to Guadalupe (AO-32) and the two ships reached Oahu four days later. The destroyer spent the remainder of July in the Pearl Harbor Navy Yard undergoing repairs.

Meanwhile, enemy message traffic indicated that Japan was building an airfield on Guadalcanal in the Solomon Islands. Such an installation would pose an unacceptable threat to Allied shipping from the United States to Australia and New Zealand. Accordingly, the target of an Allied thrust into the South Pacific was shifted from the Santa Cruz Islands to Guadalcanal.

As the forces gathered in the South Pacific to launch the first Allied offensive of the war and headed toward their objective Aylwin completed her post-repair trials and then departed Pearl Harbor on 2 August to screen the escort carrier Long Island (AVG-1) which had embarked the marine air units earmarked to operate from the airfield on Guadalcanal after its capture. The planes, Douglas SBD-3’s of VMSB-232 under Major Richard C. Mangrum and Grumman F4F-4’s of VMF-232 under Major John L. Smith, USMC (who would later win a Medal of Honor on Guadalcanal), came under the forward echelon of Marine Aircraft Group (MAG) 23, under the group executive officer, Lieutenant Colonel Charles L. Fike, USMC.

On 7 August, as Aylwin and her charge headed across the Pacific, the Marines of the 1st Marine Division splashed ashore on Guadalcanal, Tulagi, and Gavutu. On that day, the officers and men in Aylwin and Long Island conducted the festivities traditional to crossing the equator.

Meanwhile, the invasion proceeded well, the marines secured a beachhead on Guadalcanal by late on the 7th, Tulagi and Gavutu, defended to the death, held out until early on the 8th. That night, however, a Japanese cruiser force destroyed four Allied heavy cruisers and damaged a fifth in the Battle of Savo Island. That news, combined with the withdrawal of the three carriers supporting “Watchtower, “ prompted orders on the 10th for Aylwin and her charge to put into Suva, Fiji, to fuel and there await further instructions.

Aylwin and Long Island reached Suva on 13 August, covered on the last leg of their voyage by a PBY flying boat. The “further orders” came soon enough, directing the destroyer and the carrier to the New Hebrides. They arrived at Fila Harbor, Éfaté during the forenoon watch on 17 August. Reaching Mele Bay, Éfaté, on the 17th, the ships soon received their new sailing directions. On the following afternoon, Aylwin, Dale (DD-353) and Helena (CL-50) got underway to screen Long Island during the carrier’s passage to Guadalcanal. Then, on the afternoon of the 20th, Long Island reached her “flying off” point, and catapulted off the 19 F4F-4’s and 12 SBD-3’s, 200 miles southeast of Guadalcanal. The timely arrival of Long Island’s charges at Henderson Field provided the Marines with the air support they so desperately needed in those early days of Operation “Watchtower” and not a day too soon.

Two days later, the little squadron arrived back at Éfaté, where Cimarron (AO-22) replenished Aylwin’s thirsty fuel bunkers. Over the ensuing days, the destroyer conducted offshore patrols at Éfaté before receiving orders on 30 August to escort Long Island to Espiritu Santo to embark survivors of the sunken destroyer Tucker (DD-374) which had struck a mine while entering Segond Channel on 1 August.

After refueling at Pago Pago, Samoa, on 6 September, Aylwin met Conyngham (DD-371), Raleigh (CL-7), and Wharton (AP-7) off Canton Island on 11 September and screened the latter as that transport disembarked troops there.

Forming TG 15.4, Aylwin and Conyngham shepherded Wharton, via Suva, toward Nouméa before Aylwin was directed on the 18th to proceed to Tongatabu to join North Carolina (BB-55) for duty and to escort that torpedo-damaged battleship back to Pearl Harbor for repairs. Late on the afternoon of the 30th, she and Dale safely reached Hawaiian waters with their charge, and Aylwin moored alongside Dixie (AD-14) for upkeep.

Aylwin spent most of October training in Hawaiian waters and then escorted a convoy to Espiritu Santo which she reached on 7 November.

Because of Japanese submarine activity in the Santa Cruz Islands, Aylwin arrived at Vanikoro Island on the 10th to protect Ballard (AVD-10). After protecting that seaplane tender four days later, she escorted Ballard to Vanua Levu to pick up sick Army coastwatchers before returning to Espiritu Santo for fuel from the oiler Tappahannock (AO-43).

During a brief patrol out of Espiritu Santo, Aylwin developed trouble in her steering engine. Once repaired, the ship conducted channel entrance patrols there, before joining Russell (DD-414) in plane guarding Nassau (CVE-12) between 19 and 22 November.

After reaching Nouméa, Aylwin escorted the damaged battleship South Dakota (BB-59) from Tongatabu before refueling at Bora Bora, in the Society Islands, on 1 December. The destroyer then steamed to California, passed through the Golden Gate on 10 December, and underwent repairs at the Mare Island Navy Yard into the new year. She departed San Francisco on 8 January 1943, bound for Alaska in company with Bancroft (DD-598) and Dale, and arrived at Dutch Harbor five days later. Over the next three months, Aylwin conducted escort missions in the Aleutians.

Shifting southward, she then worked with Nassau during flight training before shifting north to Dutch Harbor to take part in the invasion of Attu. The landings commenced on 11 May 1943 and were covered by the naval forces under Rear Admirals Thomas C. Kinkaid and Francis W. Rockwell.

Some two months later, Aylwin shelled antiaircraft gun positions on Kiska on the night of 8 and 9 July. Approaching her target under an overcast sky, she maneuvered into range guided solely by her SG radar. Utilizing director-controlled indirect fire the destroyer made two passes at that island, firing 46 rounds of 5-inch on the first run and 38 rounds on the second. She subsequently bombarded the enemy’s main camp on Kiska the evening of 2 Augus, unaware that shortly before on 28 July the Japanese had skillfully evacuated their entire force. The ensuing Allied landings on 15 August, found only three dogs left behind.

Departing Adak on 31 August, Aylwin steamed to San Francisco and remained in the Bay area through mid-October. Leaving the west coast on the 19th, the destroyer served as part of the screen for the escort carriers Sangamon (CVE-26), Chenango (CVE-28) and Suwannee (CVE-27) as they sailed toward the New Hebrides and arrived at Espiritu Santo on 5 November.

From mid-November through the first week of December 1943 Aylwin screened carriers Sangamon and Suwannee during the operations to capture the Gilbert Islands. Detached on 8 December, she joined Bailey (DD-492) in escorting Maryland (BB-46) to Pearl Harbor where they arrived on the 14th. She then helped to screen that battleship along with Tennessee and Colorado on to San Francisco, which they reached four days before Christmas.

Following repairs at Alameda, Calif., by Union Engineering, Ltd., Aylwin picked up a convoy of tank landing ships and motor minesweepers at San Diego to escort to Hawaii. After tarrying at Kauai between 16 and 20 January 1944, she moved on to the Marshalls, reaching Kwajalein on the last day of the month. But for a run to Majuro and back between 8 and 11 February, she served there until shifting to Eniwetok on the 21st to join Hall (DD-583), Macdonough, and Monaghan in delivering fire support that night to soften up defensive works on Parry Island for marines who were about to land there. When released from fire support duty at 0630 on the 22d, she had expended 480 rounds of 5-inch AA common and 20 rounds of white phosphorus.

The destroyer then reported to Commander, Southern Screen for duty. Steaming back to Kwajalein on 26 February, Aylwin patrolled off Eniwetok and Majuro through mid-March as mop-up operations continued at those places. Assigned next to TO 58.2 including Bunker Hill (CV-17), Hornet (CV-12), Monterey (CVL-26), and Cabot (CVL-23), Aylwin screened those carriers as they carried out strikes intended to reduce Japanese airpower in the Central Pacific. On 30 March, the Fast Carrier Task Force commenced intensive bombing of Japanese airfields, shipping fleet servicing facilities, and other installations in the Carolines continuing the raids until 1 April. Aylwin helped to drive off snooping enemy planes during the approach of the carriers on the 29th and 30th and, at 1343 on the latter day, sighted a damaged Curtiss SB2C “Helldiver” from Bunker Hill’s air group ditch a short way off. The destroyer altered course and soon thereafter picked up the pilot and his radioman.

Returning to Majuro to replenish, Aylwin sortied once more on 13 April in the screen of Rear Admiral Alfred E. Montgomery’s TG 58.2, bound for waters off New Guinea to support Army landings at Aitape, Tanahmerah Bay, and Humboldt Bay, from D-1 Day (21 April) through the 24th. The establishment of these beachheads in New Guinea demonstrated the capability of American carrier-based air power to provide ample air support for military operations far beyond the range of the nearest friendly land-based planes. Planes from the ships that Aylwin screened pounded Hollandia’s airfield, beach and supply areas, and coastal defenses on the 21st, and maintained a heavy schedule of preinvasion strikes that denied the enemy use of the Hollandia airfield. Aylwin returned to Majuro on 4 May for tender repairs alongside Prairie (AD-15) which ended on the 21st.

After screening Bunker Hill and Cabot during training in late May and early June, the veteran destroyer departed Majuro on 6 June bound for the Marianas in company with TF 58. On the 12th, the planes from the carriers bombed enemy air facilities and coast defenses in the Marianas and damaged two Japanese convoys. The overpowering attack smothered Japanese air opposition—the initial fighter sweep from TF 58’s fighters destroying 124 planes at the cost of 11 “Hellcats.” The strikes continued in ensuing days to prepare for the landings on Saipan, slated for 15 June.

On the 13th, Aylwin was part of the Northern Bombardment Unit (TU 58.7.2) which shelled defense positions on the northern coast of Saipan and also served in the antisubmarine screen for the battleships Alabama (BB-60) and South Dakota. When the shelling ended at 1715, she rejoined the carriers and guarded them as they refueled the next day. During that operation, the destroyer received orders to rescue a pair of Bunker Hill aviators and, less than an hour later, picked up Ens. G. W. Snediker, USNR, and Aviation Radioman 3d Class R. E. Lincoln, USNR. The destroyer made another rescue on the 16th while covering the cruiser bombardment of Guam when a plane piloted by Ens. F. P. Kleffner, USNR, crashed 1800 yards astern.

On the 17th, Aylwin was ordered to help screen the transports and she missed the Battle of the Philippine Sea on the 19th and 20th which almost wiped out Japanese carrier-based aviation. Aylwin next proceeded to Eniwetok where she arrived on 28 June for a fortnight’s upkeep.

The Pacific Fleet next went after Guam, which had been under Japanese control since the second day of the war. Aylwin screened Wichita (CA-45) and St. Louis (CL-49) as those cruisers shelled enemy installations ashore on 18 and 19 July before taking part in a bombardment of the northern shores of Guam, concentrating her fire on Japanese defensive positions near Asan

At the outset of the mission, Dewey and two LCI’s provided harassing fire into that area. Later, Minneapolis (CA-36) and Dewey stood in close to the beach, Iying close to Adelup Point and covered the night beach obstruction demolition work of underwater demolition teams (UDT’s) screened to seaward by Aylwin, Dale, and Dickerson (APD-21).

Aylwin relieved Dewey on station at 0130 on 21 July, closed in to 1500 yards off Asan Beach, and carried out harassing fire maintaining a systematic 5-inch and automatic weapons fire while illuminating the area with starshell. Dale in turn relieved Aylwin on station at 0330 and continued the harassment of the enemy ashore. Minneapolis and the LCI’s remained in the vicinity the entire night.

Relieved at 0530, Aylwin and her colleagues retired to the transport screen northwest of Orote Point and Agana Bay. On 25 and 26 July, the destroyer screened a cruiser bombardment of Rota Island and departed the area on the 30th, bound for Eniwetok on the first leg of a voyage home. Aylwin stopped at Pearl Harbor from 9 to 11 August and reached Bremerton, Wash., on the 17th for an overhaul.

Completing overhaul and post-repair trials, the ship headed down the coast in company with Colorado (BB-46) and Farragut, reached San Pedro on 10 October, and set out for Hawaii the next day. Making port at Pearl Harbor on 18 October, Aylwin then trained in Hawaiian waters until 11 November, when she sailed for the western Pacific in company with Baltimore (CA-68), San Juan (CL-54), and three destroyers. She reached Ulithi, in the Western Carolines, on 21 November and operated between that port and the Philippines into the first week of December 1944, screening replenishment groups supporting operations in the Philippines.

On 10 December, Aylwin—flagship of Commander TG 30.8 (a replenishment group), Capt. Jasper Acuff—left Ulithi as the 3d Fleet put to sea to continue its support of the efforts to wrest the Philippines from the Japanese. Three days later, Aylwin and her charges rendezvoused with TF 38 and, upon completion of fueling operations early the following afternoon cleared the area.

On the morning of the 17th, TG 30.8 joined TF 38 and again commenced fueling. However, the weather soon began growing worse as a severe storm swirled into the Philippine Sea. The rising winds and mountainous seas forced the fleet to cease fueling, leaving many ships with depleted tanks, some improperly ballasted for the coming “blow”.

Aylwin’s commanding officer, Lt. Comdr. William K. Rogers prudently ordered all preparations made to enable his ship to be ready to meet the typhoon which was approaching the 3d Fleet. At 1700, he ordered the ship ballasted to compensate for the lack of fuel in the ship and had all ready ammunition and moveable topside equipment struck below.

At 0245 on the 18th, when Aylwin temporarily lost electrical power and steering control, she shifted to hand steering in an effort to rejoin the formation. Soon thereafter, she began to roll violently. With the ship “buttoned up” as much as practicable, Aylwin proceeded on through the nightmarish weather, the banshee-like wind screaming through the rigging. When the fleet changed course, Aylwin slipped into the trough of the waves and no combination of engines and rudder could maintain steering control as she wallowed at the mercy of the tempest.

After Aylwin rolled 70 degrees to port for the first time, Lt. Comdr. Rogers ordered her engines stopped. The ship hung there for an eternal 15 seconds before slowly righting herself. An attempt to get underway revealed that any forward movement of the ship increased the roll. After a second 70-degree roll occurred, the ship only righted herself to 60 degrees. For the next 20 minutes, the typhoon lashed at Aylwin with her full fury, often pushing the ship over to rolls that varied between 30 and 70 degrees.

As the sea continued its destructive work, tearing loose the whaleboat and its davits, Aylwin continued to struggle for survival. At 1245, Machinists Mate 1st Class Sarenski was swept overboard; followed 10 minutes later by the chief engineer, Lt. E. R. Rendahl, USNR. Neither was rescued.

At 1330, the engine-room ventilators failed. Now denied fresh air, the engine room became an oven as its temperature shot up to 180 degrees, forcing its abandonment. For the next six hours Aylwin doggedly hung on, fighting the raging sea for her life. As if the fury of the storm without were not enough, a leak in the engine room at 1930 drew all pumps into action. Eventually the inrush of water was brought under control just as it crept up above the floorplates. The sloshing of this water further reduced the ship’s already “tender” stability.

Each man in Aylwin fought the fear that the ship would turn turtle each roll could be deeper each might be the last. Every sailor hoped and prayed to be delivered from the typhoon, and providentially, Aylwin did survive Neptune’s onslaught.

However, other ships had not fared so well. The storm claimed Hull, Monaghan, and Spence (DD-512), each with heavy loss of life. Seventeen other ships suffered varying degrees of damage in the storm.

Her flooding under control, Aylwin arrived at Ulithi three days before Christmas. There, she received repairs alongside Markab (AD-21) that lasted into January 1945. While at Ulithi Aylwin conducted a brief patrol of the harbor after an explosion in Mazama (AE-12)—believed to have been caused by a submarine torpedo—but found no evidence of submarine activity.

The destroyer continued her operations as screen for replenishment groups into February of 1945. As part of the screen of TG 50.8, she—together with Crowley (DE-303), Weaver (DE-741), Suamico (AO-49), Shasta (AE-6), and Wrangell (AE-12) reached Iwo Jima on 21 February. She then began protecting the transports. On 23 February, Aylwin was assigned to TF 54 the fire support group, and relieved Tuscaloosa (CA-37) in fire support sector 1.

By that time, Marines had occupied the southern section of Iwo Jima and were advancing to the north against stiff enemy opposition. On 23 and 24 February, Aylwin fired close support expending 330 rounds of 5—inch neutralizing enemy-held positions on call, before she left Iwo Jima on the 25th for a fueling rendezvous en route back to Ulithi where she arrived on the 28th.

During the first phase of the invasion of Okinawa Aylwin operated between Kerama Retto and Ulithi. In early April she endured her second typhoon on 5 June 1945. Although much less destructive than the first, this storm caused Lt. Comdr. Rogers to report: “with the present sea-keeping and stability characteristics, the Farragut-class destroyers are unable to adequately cope with severe typhoon conditions.”

Aylwin rendezvoused with the storm-damaged Pittsburgh (CA-72) which had lost her bow in this tempest, joining that cruiser late in the afternoon. She subsequently searched unsuccessfully for the damaged warship’s severed bow before putting into Apra Harbor, Guam, on 10 June for repairs lasting until 6 July.

On that day she got underway to return to the Carolines and reached Ulithi on the next. She sortied on the 10th as an escort for Convoy WOK-39 and safely saw her 41 charges to Okinawa.

After returning to Ulithi with another convoy, Aylwin began steaming off the anchorage on picket station B-6 at 1640 on 3 August. The next morning at 0306, while on station, she received orders to proceed to latitude 11° 45’ north longitude 133° 35’ east to search for survivors of the torpedoed Indianapolis. Aylwin accordingly broke off her patrol, raced to the scene of the disaster, and searched her assigned area. However, by that time, the sea had claimed many of the survivors. The destroyer located and examined three bodies, removing all identification materials and fingerprinting them before burying them at sea. She also found and brought on board two aircraft-type rubber rafts and an empty floater net. At 0525 on 6 August, she headed back to Ulithi.

Underway again on 13 August, Aylwin escorted a convoy of troopships to the Marianas, reaching Apra Harbor on 14 August. When Japan capitulated the following day, Aylwin was at Apra Harbor.

Three days later, the destroyers got underway for the Hawaiian Islands, in company with Macdonough and Rudyerd Bay (CVE-81), and reached Pearl Harbor soon thereafter. On 27 August, Aylwin embarked four officers and 50 enlisted men at that port for passage to the west coast and, the following day sailed for the California coast. The veteran destroyer disembarked her passengers at San Diego and, after tarrying there from 3 to 11 September, got underway for Panama and the east coast of the United States.

Transiting the canal for the last time on 20 September, Aylwin reached New York City on 25 September. Decommissioned at the New York Navy Yard on 16 October 1945, Aylwin was struck from the Navy list on 1 November 1945. Stripped for disposal, her hulk was sold and delivered to George N. Nutman, Inc., of Brooklyn, N.Y., on 20 December 1946 and cut up for scrap by 2 September 1948.

Aylwin (DD-355) received 13 battle stars for her World War II service.

Source: Naval Historical Center including Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships