Higbee immediately sailed to Boston, where she was converted as a radar picket destroyer. After shakedown in the Caribbean, she sailed for the Pacific on 24 May, joining the famed Carrier Task Force 38 less than 400 miles from Tokyo Bay 19 July. “Leaping Lenah,” as she had been dubbed by her crew, screened the carriers as their planes launched heavy air attacks against the Japanese mainland until the end of hostilities on 15 August. She helped clear Japanese minefields and supported the occupation forces for the following seven months, finally returning to San Diego on 11 April 1946. The post-war years saw Higbee make two peacetime western Pacific cruises as well as participate in fleet exercises and tactical training maneuvers during both these cruises and off the West Coast. On her second WestPac cruise, Higbee escorted the heavy cruiser Toledo as they paid official visits to the recently constituted governments of India and Pakistan in the summer of 1948.
Higbee was redesignated DDR 806 on 18 March 1949.
When Communist troops plunged into South Korea in June 1950, Higbee was immediately deployed to the Korean coast with the Seventh Fleet. Most of her Korean War duty came in screening the Fast Carrier Task Force 77 as their jets launched raids against Communist positions and supply lines. On 15 September, she formed part of the shore bombardment and screening group for the brilliant amphibious operation at Inchon.
Higbee returned to San Diego on 8 February 1951. In two subsequent stints in Korea, she continued to screen the carrier task force and carry out shore bombardment of enemy positions. In order to protect against the possibility of Communist invasion of Nationalist China, Higbee also participated in patrol of Formosa Straits.
Returning to the States on 30 June 1953, she entered the Long Beach yard for a six-month modernization, which saw major structural alterations including an enlarged Combat Information Center, new height-finding radar and an improved antiaircraft battery.
The radar picket destroyer’s peacetime duty then fell into a pattern of six-month WestPac cruises alternating with upkeep and training out of San Diego. Operating with the Seventh Fleet on her WestPac cruises, Higbee visited Australian and South Pacific ports frequently as well as engaging in fleet maneuvers with units of SEATO navies.
Her home port was changed to Yokosuka, Japan on 21 May 1960. From there Higbee continued to cruise in the Pacific and along the China coast to strengthen American force in Asia and show her determination to protect democracy against the inroads of communism. After two years duty in Japan, Higbee returned to her new home port, San Francisco, on 4 September 1962. On 1 April 1963, the destroyer entered the shipyard there for a fleet rehabilitation and modernization (FRAM) overhaul designed to improve her fighting capabilities and lengthen her life span as an active member of the fleet.
Higbee was redesignated DD 806 on 1 June 1963.
Ready for action on 3 January 1964, Higbee trained on the West Coast until departing for Japan on 30 June and reached her new homeport, Yokosuka, on 18 July. During the Tonkin Gulf incident in August, the destroyer screened carriers of Task Force 77 in the South China Sea.
In February 1965, Higbee supported the 9th Marine Brigade at Danang, Vietnam. In May, she participated in Gemini recovery in the western Pacific. On 1 September, Higbee helped to rescue the crew of Arsinoe after the French tanker had grounded off Scarborough Shoals in the South China Sea. The remainder of September was spent in naval gunfire support off South Vietnam.
While operating northeast of Luzon in late January 1966, Higbee sighted Russian hydrographic ship Gidrifon. Returning to South Vietnam in April, Higbee bombarded enemy positions near Cape St. Jacques and the mouth of the Saigon River. On 17 June she departed Yokosuka for the West Coast, arrived Long Beach, her new home port on 2 July and operated out of there into 1967, when she was refitted at Mare Island.On 19 April 1972, Higbee became the first US warship to sustain bomb damage during the Vietnam War, when one of two North Vietnamese Air Force MiG-17s destroyed her after 5-inch gun mount with a 250 kg bomb. Four sailors were wounded. The second MiG-17 bombed the light cruiser USS Oklahoma City (CLG 5), causing minor damage. In return, Sterett (DLG 31) launched a Terrier surface-to-air missile, which destroyed one of the MiGs.
Higbee was decommissioned and struck from the Navy list on 15 July 1979. She was sunk as a target on 24 April 1986, around 130 nmi (240 km; 150 mi) west of San Diego at 32°28′0.4″N 119°58′0.7″W.