USS Lang (DD-399)

USS Lang (DD-399) was a Benham class destroyer that served with with the neutrality patrol in 1939-40 and the Pacific in 1940-41, but that was in the Carribean training with carriers when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. In 1942 she operated with the Royal Navy for the first half of the year, then moved to the Pacific, where she supported the invasion of Guadalcanal. In 1943 she supported the invasion of New Georgia, fighting at the battle of Vella Gulf, and later the invasion of the Gilberts. In 1944 she supported the invasion of the Marshalls and the Marianas, and fought at the battle of the Philippine Sea, before moving to the New Guinea theatre. Late in the year she took part in the invasions of Leyte and Luzon. In 1945 she took part in the invasion of Okinawa, then left the war zone for repairs which lasted to the end of the war. She was decommissioned in 1945.

USS Lang (DD-399) from above, 1943 USS Lang (DD-399) from above, 1943

The Lang was named after John Lang, who served on USS Wasp during her clash with HMS Frolic on 18 October 1812 and led the boarding party that captured the British ship.

The Lang was laid down on 5 April 1937 at Federal Shipbuilding of Kearny and launched on 27 August when she was sponsored by Mrs William D. Leahy, the wife of the Chief of Naval Operations Admiral William D. Leahy. She was commissioned on 30 March 1939.

The Lang left New York on 12 August 1939 to escort President Roosevelt as he sailed to Campobello, Newfoundland and then Nova Scotia. On 24 August the President came on board to be transported from Sandy Hook, New Jersey, to Fort Hancock.

In November the Lang left Newport, Rhode Island to move to Galveston, Texas, where she joined the Gulf Patrol, part of the wider Neutrality Patrol.

On 14 December 1939 the German liner Columbus and freighter Arauca tried to take advantage of poor visibility to try and slip past the British warships that had pinned them down at Veracruz. However the two German ships were detected by the Americans, who sent a series of destroyers to shadow them. The Lang was one of the destroyers that shadowed the Columbus, which was eventually scuttled off New Jersey when she was caught by HMS Hyperion.

On 10 February 1940 the Lang and Tuscaloosa left Guantanamo Bay heading for Pensacola, Florida, where on 15 February Presidentr Roosevelt came onboard the Tuscaloosa. Along with the Jouett (DD-396) the small flotilla then carried the President on a cruise to Panama and along the west coast of Central America, where he held meetings with various Latin American leaders, before returning through the Panama Canal on 27 February.

In the spring of 1940 the Lang was transferred to the Pacific, reaching San Diego on 18 March 1940 and Pearl Harbor on 2 April. She took part in that year’s Fleet Problem, and then spent the next year operating between Hawaii and the US West Coast.

On 19 May 1941 the Lang left Hawaii with the Mississippi (BB-41), Savannah (CL-42), Wilson and Sterett (DD-407), officially for local exercises but actually to head to the Atlantic to reinforce Admiral King. The fleet passed through the Panama Canal on 2-3 June and reached Guantanamo Bay on 5 June.

After her arrival on the east coast she was used for carrier and anti-submarine training in Atlantic and Caribbean waters.

On 25 June-8 July the Lang took part in a 4,762 mile neutrality patrol that began at Hampton Roads and ended at Bermuda (Philadelpha, Savannah, Lang and Wilson (DD-408).

On 17 August the Lang, Sterett and Wilson met off the Virginia Capes and headed north, reaching Casco Bay, Maine on 19 August. The three destroyers then took part in exercises in that area, before Wilson and Lang departed for the newly acquired American base on Bermuda in early September. From 17-20 September the Wilson, Lang and Nashville (CL-43) practised anti-aircraft gunnery from Burmuda.

In December the Lang acted as a screen and plane guard for the Yorktown and Ranger as they operated off the coast of Maine and Bermuda.

On 24-25 December the Lang, Rhind and Savannah screened the Ranger during flight operations off Bermuda.

At the end of 1941 she sailed to Port Royal, Nova Scotia to patrol with the Royal Navy.


Towards the middle of January 1942 she departed for the British West Indies. On the way she rescued 34 survivors from the SS Empire Wildebeest (which had been torpedoed and sunk by U-106 on 24 January).

On 22 February TG 2.7 (Ranger, Augusta (CA-31), Savannah, Lang, Wainwright (DD-419) and Wilson) left Bermuda to watch the French warships at Martinique and to make sure that the Vichy French on the island were sticking to their agreement to keep their ships neutral.

On 13 March she left Bermuda with TG 22.7 (Ranger (CV-4), Savannah (CL-42) and three destroyers) to carry out a patrol in the Caribbean. This force was at sea for several days before splitting up, with some heading to New York while the Lang’s element returned to Bermuda.

On 18 March she left Bermuda for Casco Bay, Maine. On 26 March she left Casco Bay as part of Task Force 39, which included the carrier Wasp, the battleship Washington (BB-56), two heavy cruisers and six destroyers, heading for the Royal Navy base at Scapa Flow. On 3 April they met up with three British ships and endered Scapa Flow on 4 April.

The task force then became part of Force ‘W’ of the British Home Fleet, which was used to try and get much needed Spitfires to the besieged island of Malta (Operation Calendar). On 19 April this force passed through the Straits of Gibralter, and on 20 April the Wasp flew off her cargo of Spitfires, before the fleet withdrew to Gibraltar. Unfortunatly these Spitfires were almost all destroyed in German raids soon after landing on the island.

USS Lang (DD-399) from the Stern, 1943 USS Lang (DD-399) from the Stern, 1943

The Lang remained with the Wasp’s task force for a second attempt to fly Spitfires to Malta. This time the Spitfires were flown off on 9 May, and the arrangements on Malta were much better organised and the fighters were quickly refuelled and given to experienced Malta pilots, who then used them against the incoming German raid.

On 26 May a photograph taken by an aircraft from the Wasp shows her painted in a rather unusual jagged camouflage pattern.

After the second mission the Lang departed to the United States, reaching Norfolk on 28 May. She was then transferred to San Diego, and was there by the end of June.

On 1 July the Lang left San Diego as the flagship of Destroyer Division 15 in Task Force 18, heading to Tonga to carry out shore bombardment exercises, part of the build-up to the invasion of Guadalcanal and Tulagi.

When the invasion of Guadalcanal began in August the Lang was part of the screen for the carrier Wasp.

On 15 September the O’Brien was hit by a torpedo and badly damaged. After temporary repairs at Noumea, on 10 October she departed for Mare Island, along with the Cimmaron (AO 22) and Lang. Despite the temporary repairs and careful monitoring, it was clear that the damage was getting worse, and early on 19 October she began to break apart. She had to be abandoned at 0630 and sank at 0800, having steamed 2,800 miles since being torpedoed.

For the rest of the year and into 1943 the Lang operated from the New Hebrides, carrying out a mix of patrol and escort missions to support the campaign in the Solomons.


On 22 and 24 January the Lang took part in bombardments of Japanese positions near Kokumbona Beach on Guadalcanal.

On the night of 17-18 July the Lang, Stack, Waller, Saufley and Pringle served as a screen for the fast transports Kilty, Ward, Waters and McKean, which were carrying reinforcements to Enogai Inlet, near Rice Anchorage on New Georgia.  Early on 18 July an aircraft reported three Japanese destroyers close to their course, so the destroyers altered course to find them. The ‘Japanese destroyers’ were heading towards Kolombangara, but withdrew at high speed when the Americans opened fire. The US destroyers then withdrew back to the entrance of Kula Gulf to continue their original mission. Luckily no hits were scored, as these ships later turned to be three US PT boats that had drifted north out of their own operational area. The fast transports unloaded their troops and the entire force then retired to Purvis Bay, Florida.

On 31 July the Lang and two other destroyers escorted five LCIs to Onaiaviai, on New Georgia, where they landed more troops. This force came under air attack and the Lang claimed one victory.

On the night of 6-7 August the Lang was part of a force of destroyers under Commander Frederick Moosbrugger that was sent to try and intercept Japanese destroyers being used to get reinforcements to Kolombangara. Moosbrugger arranged his destroyers into two columns, with the Lang leading the right hand column. For once the Americans had the best of a night action, and sank the Japanese destroyers Kawakaze, Arashi and Hagikaze. Only one Japanese destroyer, the Shigure, escaped from the battle of Vella Gulf.

On the night of 9-10 August Moosbrugger repeated the sweep, but this time they only found a few Japanese barges. However one of these did hit the Lang with machine gun fire, and most of the barges managed to escape, proving to be almost too agile for the American gunnery.

On 26 October the Lang was photographed off the Mare Island Navy Yard, now painted in a single colour. A series of photographs taken at this time show very few changes had been made, although one does show two trough like structures above the amidships depth charge racks.

From 23-30 November the Lang was part of TF 50 during the invasion of the Gilbert Islands.

On 9 December the Lang took part in a bombardment of Nauru.


In January 1944 the Lang took part in bombardments of Roi, Namur and Abraham Islands. She then joined Task Force 58 in time to take part in the invasion of Kwajalein at the end of the month.

On 18 January the Lang was part of TG 37.2 (Indiana, Massachusetts (BB-59), North Carolina, South Dakota and Washington, screened by six destroyers), when it departed from Efate heading to Funafuti. On the voyage she lost a man overboard.

Early on 29 January the North Carolina, Lang and Sterett were detached from the main fleet with orders to bombard the airfield at Roi. The Lang was posted ahead of the battleship, and fired 53 rounds during two bombardment runs early on 30 January. She then joined the main battleship bombardment force, screening the battleships during their bombardment. Later in the day she was ordered to fire on targets of opportunity on Roi and Namur. She opened fire on Roi on 1120, then at 1149 switched to Namur. During the afternoon she fired on targets on Ennugarret, Namur and Roi, ceasing fire for the day at 1420.

On 13 February she was at Funafuti, in the Ellice Islands, where she formed part of the escort for Transport Divisions 24 and 26 (Lang, Hogan (DD-178), Hamilton (DD-141), Stansbury (DD-180) and Stevens. The convoy split on 15 February and the Lang and Stevens escorted the DuPAge (APA-41), Aquarius (AKA-16) and Almaack (AK-27) to Guadalcanal, arriving on 18 February. 

In early April she was ordered back to Pearl Harbor as part of TU 34.9.5 (Tennessee (BB-43), Mississippi, Columbia, Lang, Wilson (DD-408) and Sterett (DD-407), arriving on 17 April.

On 24 May she departed from Pearl Harbor with TG 12.1 (built around the battleships North Carolina (BB-55) and Washington (BB-56), three cruisers and six destroyers. This force reached Majuro on 30 May.

During the summer of 1944 the Lang was part of TF 58 during the invasion of the Marianas Islands, screening the fast carrier task forces. She returned to Tulagi on 17 August after the end of the Marianas campaign.

On 31 August the Lang laid a minefield and bombarded shore positions at Wewak on New Guinea.

From 16 September to 3 October she escorted two reinforcement convoys heading to Morotai, fighting off heavy Japanese air attacks on both occasions.

On 3 October the Lang and Stevens left Morotai, arriving at Humboldt Bay two days later.

On 8 October she attempted to tow the torpedoed destroyer escort USS Shelton (DE-407) to Morotai, but she capsized and sank before reaching safety.

On 10 October the Lang departed from Hollandia to support the landings in Leyte Gulf. She was the target of six kamikaze attacks, but suffered no damage. On 17 October she and the Bisbee (PF-46) carried out a shore bombardment while the Ward landed troops on Dinagat Island, on the southern side of Leyte Gulf. On 31 October she left the Leyte battle area.

On 25 December she sailed for Lingayen Gulf on Luzon as part of Task Force 78. During the voyage and while in the gulf the force was attacked repeatedly by kamikazes, but the Lang once again suffered no damage.


On 16 January 1945 the Lang returned to Leyte Gulf, then escorted a resupply convoy back to Lingayen. After her return she patrolled the entrance to Lingayen Gulf until 28 January, when she departed as part of TU 78.12.4, which was to return to the Solomons to train for the invasion of Okinawa. On the afternoon of 28 January she left the unit to investigate a possible submarine contact, but nothing was found and she soon rejoined the fleet. The unit reached Guadalcanal on 12 February.

On 27 March she left Ulithi as the flagship of ComDesDiv 4, and escorted the transports of TF 53 as they headed to Okinawa.

On 7 April she came alongside the destroyer escort USS Wesson (DE-184), which had been hit by a kamikaze, and attempted to take her under tow. The line parted, but the Wesson was able to make it to Kerama Retto under her own power.

From, 12-29 April the Lang once again came under constant air attack, and again suffered no damage.

From 29 April to 17 May the Lang was part of the escort for three escort carriers that were providing air support for the fighting on Okinawa. After that she screened other carrier operations in the Okinawa area, before departing for San Francisco and repairs on 11 June.

She arrived at San Francisco on 3 July. She was photographed at the Mare Island Navy Yard on 21 August, and despite the late date her anti-aircraft armament had been modified, with 40mm quad guns added in place of her torpedo tubes. Her rear depth charges racks were also modified.

By the time her repairs and upgrade were completed the war was over, so instead of returning to the Pacific she was sent to New York. On 25 August, while on her way, she rescued two downed pilots.

The Lang was decommissioned on 16 October 1945, sold on 20 December and scrapped by 31 October 1947.

The Lang received eleven battle stars, for the reinforcement of Malta, landings on Guadalcanal, defence of Guadalcanal, New Georgia, Marshall Islands, Pacific Raids of 1944, Marianas, Western New Guinea, Leyte, Luzon and Okinawa.

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 (27 September 2022), USS Lang (DD-399) ,

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