USS Farenholt (DD-491)

The Farenholt (DD-491) was a Benson class destroyer that took part in the invasion of Guadalcanal, the fighting in the Solomon Islands, and the invasions of Guam, the Palaus, Morotai, Angaur, Leyte and Okinawa.

The Farenholt was named after Oscar Walter Farenholt who served in the US Navy during the American Civil War and the Spanish-American War and retired in 1901 with the rank of Rear Admiral.

The Farenholt was laid down by the Bethlehem Steel Co at Staten Island, New York, launched on 19 November 1941 when she was sponsored by Admiral Farenholt’s great-grand niece Miss Nancy Lee Garland and commissioned on 2 April 1942.

fffff USS Farenholt (DD-491) signed by Arleigh Burke

On 1 July 1942 the Farenholt left San Diego heading for the Tonga Islands. From 18-23 July she took part in shore bombardment exercises, to prepare for the invasion of Guadalcanal.

On 7 August she was part of the Wasp’s (CV-7) task force for the landings on Guadalcanal, and flagship of Destroyer Squadron 12. She screened the Wasp during the early days of the invasion.

From 3-8 September she replenished at Noumea, then returned to the Wasp’s task group, to cover the movement of reinforcements from Espiritu Santo to Guadalcanal.

On 15 September the task force was attacked by I-19. The Japanese submarine fired a spread of three torpedoes and hit the Wasp. The Farenholt helped rescue 143 survivors from the carrier, including the Task Force commander Rear Admiral Leigh Noyes and the captain of the Wasp. The Wasp soon had to be abandoned and was devastated by a series of massive explosions before sinking. On 16 September the Farenholt reached Espiritu Santo with the survivors.

She was then used to screen a convoy carrying occupation troops from Noumea to Funafuti. She returned to Espiritu Santo on 6 October, and joined a task force that was put together to intercept Japanese shipping bringing reinforcements and supplies to Guadalcanal at night. She was with this task force when it clashed with the Japanese at the battle of Cape Esperance (11-12 October 1942).

Before the battle Admiral Scott formed his force into a column, with destroyers at the front and rear and his four cruisers in the middle. The Farenholt was the leading ship in the force, but just before making contact with the Japanese Admiral Scott ordered the force to make a column turn, in which the first destroyer would turn first and the rest of the ships follow. Instead the leading cruiser San Francisco, (and his flagship) turned immediately, leaving the three destroyers behind. They were then ordered to speed past the column to take up their original position, but this put them on the same side as the column as the approaching Japanese. When the first enemy ships were detected, Admiral Scott wasn’t sure if they were the enemy or his own destroyers, and delayed opening fire. When the cruisers did open fire some of their shots hit the American destroyers. The Farenholt was hit in the masts and once in the hull by friendly fire. She suffered three dead and 43 wounded in the action. Her torpedo tubes were knocked out, and she suffered flooding through the hole at her waterline. She was able to fire her guns throughout, hitting a Japanese cruiser and destroyer.

The flooding was controlled by moving oil, water and topside weights to the starboard, so she listed 9 degrees to starboard, bringing the hole out of the water. On 13 October she reached Espirtu Santo under her own power.  She then moved on to Pearl Harbor for repairs that kept her out of action until March 1943.


The Farenholt returned to Espiritu Santo after her repairs were completed on 3 March 1943. She spent the next month training and on patrol duties around the New Hebrides, before leaving for the Solomons on 3 April to carry out escort missions.

She was off Lunga Point on the night of 6 April and opened fire on Japanese bombers attacking the anchorage. This was part of Operation I-Go, Admiral Yamamoto’s attempt to inflict heavy damage on the US navy just using air power.

On 7 April she was still of Lunga Point when a large Japanese attack was detected and all ships on the are were ordered to get underway. She joined the Woodworth (DD-460) and the oiler Tappahannock and headed into the Lunga Channel. However this brought them directly to a force of fourteen Vals. The Japanese concentrated on the Tappahannok, but were only able to score a handful of near misses. The Farenholt claimed one aircraft shot down, and suffered one man wounded by a near miss.

Workmen salute USS Farenholt (DD-491), 1941 Workmen salute USS Farenholt (DD-491), 1941

After replenishing at Espiritu Santo and a period of training, she returned to her role escorting ships to and from the Solomons on 30 April. On 13 May she was attacked by Japanese bombers, but only suffered one man wounded.

She then took part in the invasion of New Georgia. On 30 June she bombarded shore batteries at Munda to protect the transports landing troops on nearby Rendova Island. Later in the day Japanese aircraft attacked the transports as they were retiring. The Farenholt was the target of three torpedoes, avoiding two. Luckily the third was a rare dud. However the task force flagship, USS McCawley (APA-4) was sunk, and the Farenholt had to take on the task force commander, Rear Admiral R.K Turner.

From then until 16 July she continued to support the fighting on New Georgia, escorting shipping and taking part in shore bombardments. She then moved to Espiritu Santo for some upkeep alongside a tender, and was then used for escort and patrol duties around Noumea and Guadalcanal, to carry troops and supplies to Vella Lavella and on anti-shipping sweeps.

In October she was sent on a six day visit to Sydney (with the Montpelier), arriving at Woolloomooloo Bay on 19 October. The two ships departed Sydney on 25 October and reached Tulagi on 29 October.

She then joined the screen for the carrier striking force that operated to the north-east of Bougainville to support the invasion of that island. The carriers also raided Buka and Rabaul. From November to February 1944 the Farenholt operated in support of the fighting on Bougainville and New Britain, escorted reinforcements to Empress Augusta Bay on Bougainville, bombarded Choisoul, targets on Bougainville and in the Shortlands.


On 14 February the Farenholt supported the invasion of the Green Islands, shooting down a Japanese dive bomber during the day.

On the night of 17-18 February the Farenholt and her squadron carried out a raid on Rabaul, attacking shore installations, and firing on shipping, sinking two merchant ships.

An attempt to carry out a similar raid on Kavieng on 25 February was less successful, and the Farenholt was hit by Japanese gunfire which holed her on the waterline on the starboard side. Controlled flooding was used to raise the holes out of the water, and she reached Purvis Bay where temporary repairs were carried out. She then departed for the US West Coast and an overhaul.

She was photographed at the Mare Island Navy Yard on 2 May.

The overhaul was complete by 16 June when she departed for the war zone. After a period of training at Pearl Harbor she joined the forces supporting the invasion of Guam. On 21 July she was used to screen the transports landing the assault force. From then until 10 August she patrolled off Guam.

On 10 August she departed to Eniwetok to prepare for the invasion of the Palaus. During September she screened the carriers as they carried out preliminary air strikes on the Palaus and the southern Philippines. She was also used to bombard a radar station at Cape San Augustine on Mindanao, supported the landings of Morotai, the invasion of Anguar and screened the carriers as they raided Manila.

From 28 September to 13 October she replenished at Manaus.

She then rejoined the fleet to take part in the invasion of the Philippines. She screened the carriers during the invasion of Leyte on 20 October. Her group then departed for Ulithi, but was recalled on 24 October to take part in the battle of Leyte Gulf. However the Farenholt’s squadron was detached before reaching the battle zone and instead sent to help escort the damaged cruisers Canberra (CA-70) and Houston (CL-81) reach safety after suffering heavy damage during the raid on Taiwan in early October. The cruisers and their escorts reached Ulithi on 27 October.


During the first half of 1945 the Farenholt served as the flagship of the commander of Destroyer Squadron 12, who was also the commander of the Western Carlines and Marianas Patrol and Escort Group. The Farenholt was the station ship at Ulithi and Kossol Passage and escorted convoys between those points and to rendezvous points in mid-ocean. 

On 5 May she was ordered to move to Okinawa, arriving on 8 May. She was used to on air-sea rescue, screening, escort and shore bombardment duties and also supported the carriers as they attacked bases being used by the kamikaze forces.

She performed this duty for a month, before being sent to San Pedro Bay to join the logistics group supporting the fast carrier force as it attacked the Japanese Home Islands.

From 28 July to 22 September the Farenholt carried out screening duties off Okinawa.

On 22 September an Army general came onboard and she transported him to a meeting where he accepted the surrender of the southern Ryukyus and Sakishima Gunto.

From 20-22 October she escorted the transport Admiral W.S. Benson from Buckner Bay to Sasebo, Japan.

She then departed for the United States, reaching Charleston on 8 December. She was decommissioned on 26 April 1946 and remained in the reserve fleet for twenty five years. She was finally struck off in June 1971 and sold for scrap in November 1972.

Farenholt received 12 battle stars for World War II service, for the Guadalcanal-Tulagi landings, battle of Cape Esperance, Consolidation of the Solomons, New Georgia, Treasury-Bougainville, Bismarck Archipelago, Marianas, Western Carolines, Western New Guinea, Leyte, Okinawa and 3rd Fleet raids on Japan.

Displacement (standard)

1,620 design
1,911t as built

Displacement (loaded)


Top Speed

37.89kt at 51,390shp at 2,065t on trial (Mayo)


2-shaft Westinghouse turbines
4 boilers
50,000shp design


6,500nm at 12kt design
5,520nm at 12kt at 2,400t wartime
3,880nm at 20kt at 2,400t wartime


348ft 1in


36ft 2in


Five 5in/38 guns
Five 21in torpedoes
Ten 0.5in AA guns
Two depth charge tracks
One Y-Gun depth charge projector

Crew complement


Laid Down



19 November 1941


2 April 1942


26 April 1946

Struck Off

June 1971

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.
cover cover cover

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How to cite this article: Rickard, J (19 April 2023), USS Farenholt (DD-491) ,

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