USS Ellet (DD-398)

USS Ellet (DD-398) was a Benham class destroyer that served with the neutrality patrol in 1939-40 before moving to the Pacific. She was at sea when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. In 1942 she supported the Doolittle Raid, fought at the battle of Midway and took part in the invasion of Guadalcanal. 1943 was split between operations in the Solomons and an overhaul. In 1944 she took part in the invasion of the Marshalls, the landings at Hollandia, the invasion of the Marianas and was then based in the Marianas until July 1945. She was decommissioned in October 1945.

USS Ellet (DD-398) being delivered, 1939 USS Ellet (DD-398) being delivered, 1939

The Ellet was named after thje five members of the Ellet family who served in the US Army and Navy during the Civil War.

The Ellet was laid down at Kearny, New Jersey and launched on 11 June 1938 when she was sponsored by Miss Elvira Daniel Cabell, a grand-daughter of Colonel Charles Ellet Jr, one of the five. She was commissioned on 17 February 1939.

In September 1939 the outbreak of war in Europe resulted in the formation of a US Navy Neutrality Patrol. In September-October the Ellet operated with the patrol off the Grand Banks, then the West Gulf Patrol.


The Ellet was then allocated to the Pacific Fleet, and reached her new base at San Diego on 26 February 1940.


In the summer of 1941 the Ellet moved to her new base at Hawaii. In October she transported an Army survey team back from Christmas Island to Honolulu.

When the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor on 7 December 1941 the Ellet was at sea with Task Force 8, which was returning from Wake Island.


The Ellet and Beham escorted a slow convoy to the US west coast, arriving on 28 January 1942. She then returned to Pearl Harbor, and in February escorted a convoy to Christmas Island.

In April she helped screen Task Force 16 during the Doolittle Raid, returning to Pearl Harbor on 25 April.

USS Ellet (DD-398) during Naval Review, 1939 USS Ellet (DD-398) during Naval Review, 1939

On 30 April the same force left port heading south in an attempt to arrive in time to take part in the battle of the Coral Sea, but they arrived too late.

On 28 May the Ellet left port with Task Force 16 to take part in the Battle of Midway, returning to Pearl Harbor on 13 June.

The Ellet was then allocated to the forces for the invasion of Guadalcanal. She took part in the pre-invasion bombardment of 7 August, then guarded the transport area. She wasn’t involved in the battle of Savo Island (8-9 August 1942), but in the aftermath rescued 41 officers and 451 men from the Quincy (CA-39) and one man from the Astoria (CA-34), then helped the Selfridge (DD-357) sink the damaged cruiser HMAS Canberra. Ironically when she first appeared on the scene, the Ellet’s commander had seen the Selfridge firing at the Canberra, and assumed she was a damaged Japanese cruiser, so had opened fire and had already fired over 100 shells before being ordered to stop! She then transferred the rescued survivors to the transport American Legion.

The Ellet was then sent to escort transports back to Noumea, before on 12 August she was detached to join the screen of the Enterprise (CV-6) task force which was operating to the east of the Solomon Islands to provide some air support. The Ellet returned to Pearl Harbor on 10 September.

In October 1942 she left Pearl Harbor to escor the Sonoma II and Turkey as they towed the floating dry dock ARD-2 and the concrete fuel barge YO-24 to New Caledonia, arriving on 3 November.

She returned to Espiritu Santo and in November 1942 began to carry out patrols in the Solomons as part of Task Force 16.


This ended in May 1943 when she returned to Pearl Harbor.

She was back at Espiritu Santo on 1 July, and then moved to Tulagi, where she supported operations in the northern Solomons.

On 15 July she put to sea from Guadalcanal to help rescue a group of 175 survivors from the Helena who were trapped on Vella Lavella after the cruiser had been sunk during the battle of Kula Gulf on 6 July 1943. The Ellet formed part of the escort group for the transports. The rescue force reached Vella Lavella early on 16 July and successfully rescued 174 survivors from the Helena, one army officer and one Japanese POW. The force then safely returned to Tulagi, arriving on the afternoon of 16 July.

On 3 September 1943 the Ellet sank a Japanese submarine in a depth charge attack in the Coral Sea, near Espiritu Santo. This was probably I-20, I-25 or I-182. At the end of the month she returned to the West Coast for an overhaul


The Ellet was back in the war zone by the end of January 1944 when she screened the carriers supporting the invasion of the Marshall Islands.

After week of repairs at Pearl Harbor, in April she supported the landings at Hollandia on New Guinea.

She then joined the Fifth Fleet, and helped screen the carriers during raids on the Bonins and during the invasions of Saipan and Guam in the Marianas.

On 13 October she arrived at Ulithi Atoll, and was then sent to see if the nearby Ngulu Atoll was suitable for use as a secondary fleet anchorage. Her report must have been positive, as troops landed there on 16 October. However on 17 October the Montgomery (DM-17) struck a mine, and needing towing back to Ulithi by the Ellet.

At the end of October the Ellet joined the Marianas Patrol and Escort Group.

On 3 November she met up with a group of submarines that were escorting the damaged submarinee Salmon (SS-182) back to Tanapag, and took over lead of the group from the Trigger. After thirteen hours the Ellet led the Salmon into port.

In December 1944 she took part in a bombardment of Iwo Jima.


In January 1945 she took part in a second bombardment of Iwo Jima.

She was then based at Guam and Saipan, and spent the next few months on convoy escort and air sea rescue duties. This lasted until July 1945 when she was sent back to Mare Island for repairs. She was still there when the war ended, and was decommissioned at Mare Island on 29 October 1945 and sold for scrap on 1 August 1947.

Ellet received 10 battle stars for World War II service, for Midway, the invasion of Guadalcanal, Eastern Solomons, New Georgia, sinking I-20, the Marshall Islands, Pacific Raids of 1044, Marianas, Rennell Island and Iwo Jima.

U.S. Destroyers: An Illustrated Design History, Norman Friedmann . The standard history of the development of American destroyers, from the earliest torpedo boat destroyers to the post-war fleet, and covering the massive classes of destroyers built for both World Wars. Gives the reader a good understanding of the debates that surrounded each class of destroyer and led to their individual features.
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How to cite this article: Rickard, J (20 September 2022), USS Ellet (DD-398) ,

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