USS Mugford (DD-389)

USS Mugford (DD-389) was a Bagley class destroyer that was present at Pearl Harbor, and then took part in the invasion of Guadalcanal, the fighting on New Guinea and New Britain, the invasion of the Marianas Islands, the battle of Leyte Gulf, and the invasion of the Philippines, where she suffered damage that effectively ended her front line career, although she returned to duty in the Pacific in 1945.

The Mugford was named after Captain John Mugford, who served in the Continental Navy during the US War of Independence, capturing the British ship Hope and bringing her and her valuable cargo of military supplies into Boston, before being killed during a night battle.

USS Mugford (DD-389) at sea, 1939 USS Mugford (DD-389) at sea, 1939

The Mugford  was laid down at the Boston Navy Yard on 28 October 1935, launched on 31 October 1936 when she was sponsored by Captain Mugford’s great-great-grand niece, and commissioned on 16 August 1937. Her shakedown cruise took her to Boston, where she was seen on 25 October and Cuba, where she was photographed without her main battery gun director late in 1937. Later in the year she joined the Pacific Fleet, taking part in the normal life of the fleet, and accompanying it when it moved its main base from San Diego to Pearl Harbor.

In the winter of 1938-39 she took part in station keeping tests with the cruiser Chester (CA-27), to test out the feasibility of side-by-side refuelling for ships at sea.

Her commander from June 1939 to July 1940 was Arleigh A. Burke, who went on serve as Chief of Naval Operations from 1955-1961. Under his command the Mugford’s gun crews all achieved perfect scors in short range battle practice, the first time this had been achieved. The Mugford was also given more AA guns, with a twin 40mm mount and six 20mm mounts and their associated directors added. 

When the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor on 7 December 1941 the Mugford was moored between the gunboat Sacramento (PG-19) and the Jarvis (DD-393) at berth B-6 in the Navy Yard. At the time part of her engineering plant had been dis-assembled for an overhaul and her fuel tanks were almost empty. Within minutes of the attack starting work began on rebuilding it and by 10.05 the main engine and two boilers were back online. However the Jarvis didn’t move until 10.20, allowing a fuel barge to come alongside. Refueling was a slower process than one might think, and fueling didn’t end until 12.05. She was finallyu underway at 12.14.

While this was going on she was firing at Japanese aircraft. She claimed three victories with her .50in AA guns, two during the first wave and one later on at 09.28.

After the attack the Mugford carried out patrols off Hawaii, then joined Task Force 14, built around the Saratoga (CV-3). She took part in the failed attempt to relieve Wake Island.


On 19 January 1942 the Mugford moved to TF 11 and screened the Lexington (CV-2) during patrols, before returning to Pearl Harbor on 5 February.

Later on the same day the Mugford departed Pearl Harbor as part of the escort for troop ships heading to Brisbane, arriving on 25 February. She escorted a convoy to Noumea in New Caledonia, arriving on 13 March, and from thenm until late May operated as a convoy escort and patrol ship in the Tutuila, Tonga and Bora Bora areas. In early June she moved to Australia and escorted troop convoys along the Australian coast.

Officers of USS Mugford (DD-389), 1939 Officers of USS Mugford (DD-389), 1939

On 19 July the Mugford departed for Wellington, New Zealand, where she began to prepare for the invasion of Guadalcanal. She formed part of Task Force 62 during the invasion. Early on the morning of 7 August the Mugford, Selfridge, Jarvis and Ralph Talbot formed the under-way anti-submarine screen of the transport ships taking part in the landings on Guadalcanal. During the day the Japanese carried out a series of air attacks on the invasion beaches.  The second attack, which came in at about 1500, was split into two, with one part distracting the US fighters while the second part attacked. Four Aichi D3A1 Val carrier bombers attacked the Mugford, scoring three near misses and a direct hit near no.3 5in gun mount. Two of the four bombers crashed into the water after the attack. On the Mugford four men were killed and three mortally wounded. Ten were blown overboard, and at least 34 wounded. Four gun positions were knocked out, although three were back in operation by 1700. The Mugford was able to remain on her station.

On 8 August the Mugford was able to fire her 5in guns at Japanese aircraft during another raid on the anchorage. At 1252 she was ordered to investigate smoke to the west, and at 1320 rescued two crewmen from a G4M Betty that had been shot down.

The Mugford didn’t take part in the battle of Savo Island, but early on 9 August 1942 she began rescue efforts which lasted for three hours and saw her pick up 375 survivors including Capt. Frederick L. Riefkohl, Commanding Officer of Vincennes (CA-44). Fifteen of the survivors died onboard. At 1300 the Mugford began to transfer the survivors to the Barnett.

The Mugford remained off Guadalcanal until 14 August, when she withdrew to Noumea, and then on to Australia, reaching Sydney on 27 August. There she went into the Australian Navy drydock Cockatoo for a week of repairs. She then moved to Brisbane.

On 21 September the Mugford replaced the Bagley as part of Task Force 44, a cruiser-destroyer force built around the Australia, Hobart and Phoenix. She spent much of the next three months patrolling the Coral Sea.

On 9 October 1942 the Mugford (DD-389), Helm (DD-388) and Patterson (DD-392) took part in gunnery exercises inside the Great Barrier Reef, near the Palm Islands.


In January 1943 the Mugford began to escort cargo ships and transports from various Australian ports to Port Moresby on New Guinea. The Mugford also took part in Operation Lilliput, escorting convoys between Milne Bay near the eastern tip of New Guinea and Oro Bay further to the north-west, to support the US 32nd Division and Australian 7th Division during the fighting at Buna, Gona and Sanananda. On 15 May the Mugford rescued 64 survivors from the Australian Hospital Ship Centaur, which had been torpedoed on the previous day.

In May 1943 the Mugford carried out an escort mission to Noumea and Fiji. She then moved to Brisbane, for operations off New Guinea.

USS Mugford (DD-389) with torpedo tubes out USS Mugford (DD-389) with torpedo tubes out

On 10 June the Mugford, Bagley and Helm left Noumea to escort a convoy to Brisbane, arriving on 14 June. In 22 June she embarked Vice Admiral Andrew F. Carpender, Commander, Allied Naval Forces, Southwest Pacific Area, to transport him from Palm Island to Townsville.

On 26 June the Helm and Mugford formed TU 76.2.1, and then escorted a convoy of LSTs carrying troops to Woodlark Island, where they landed on 1 July. The Mugford then spent the rest of the month escorting further convoys of LSTs to Woodlard Island, before moving to Milne Bay, New Guinea, on 7 August. At Milne Bay she was used for shore bombardments and patrol duties throughout August.

On 2 September she joined TG 76.6 (Perkins, Smith (DD-378), Lamson (DD-367), Drayton and Mugford) to escort LSTs from Buna to Lae, then supported the landings at Lae on 4 September. Early in the afternoon of the same day the Lamson, Mugford and Drayton began to retire from Red Beach when the landing area was attacked by a force of Bettys and Vals. The destroyers were attacked by some of the Aichi D3A Vals, but were undamaged.

The destroyers returned to Buna to collect a second echelon of LSTs, and on their return to Lae were attacked by Betty bombers. This time the Mugford was subjected to several near misses, and suffered some damage from shrapnel. She then escorted a third convoy to Lae.

Her next task was to escort LSTs carrying the Australian 9th Division to Finschhafen. On 22 September the Mugford took part in a shore bombardment of the landing area, and late in the day she was involved in a brief fight with Japanese landing barges, two of which were then sunk by other destroyers.

The Mugford then returned to Townsville, then escorted the destroyer tender Dobbin (AD-3) to Milne Bay, where she was given new surface gunnery radar. On 6 October she departed for Buna, from where she began a period of escort duty between Lae and Finschaven. On 20 October, at the Finschhafen end of one of these runs, her formation was attacked by a large force of Japanese aircraft, but she was able to avoid damage.

For the rest of November and into early December she carried out escort operations between Woodlark Island, Milne Bay, Buna, Lae and Finschaven. On 30 November-1 December she was part of TU 76.6.3 (Reid, Smith and Mugford) and escorted four LSTs from Woodlard Island to Goshen.

On 14 December she escorted LSTs taking part in the invasion of Arawe, New Britain.

On 25 December Lamson, Drayton, Mugford and Bagley departed for Cape Gloucester escorting eight LSTs. The convoy arrived off Bogen Bay on 26 December, and the destroyers then supported the LSTs while they carried out the landings. During the afternoon of 26 December the destroyers were attacked by several Vals, and the Mugford suffered three near misses. One of these killed one sailor and wounded six, most from a 20mm gun crew. The hull and superstructure were also hit, and 108 shrapnel holes were counted. Later in the day the destroyers withdrew to escort a convoy of empty transports back to Buna. This formation was attacked by eight Japanese bombers, all of which were shot down.

After this the Mugford needed repairs which were carried out alongside the depot ship Dobbin at Milne Bay.


On 6 January the Mugford, Mahan and Reid left Cape Sudest to head for Saidor and Gali. The Mugford spent a week on shore bombardment duties to support the landings at Saidor.

This was followed by ten days of leave and recreation at Sydney in mid-January. She then moved to Huon Gulf for patrol and escort duties, which lasted into February.

On 10 February Mugford, Helm, Bagley and Ralph Talbot were relieved by Destroyer Division 38 and transferred from the Seventh Fleet to the Third Fleet. They departed Milne Bay on 10 February and reached Port Purvis on 12 February and Guadalcanal on 13 February. On the same day Mugford and Helm left to escort a convoy of three merchant ships have way to Pearl Harbor. On 19 February they left the convoy and reached Pearl Harbor on 24 February.

Officers of USS Mugford (DD-389), 1939 Officers of USS Mugford (DD-389), 1939

On 25 February the two destroyers left Pearl Harbor to escort the battleship Maryland (BB-46) to the Puget Sound Navy Yard. On 3 March, after completing that task, they were detached and sent to the Mare Island Navy Yard, arriving on 5 March.

She underwent an eight week refit, in which she was probably painted in camo measure 32 design 1D (as she was photographed in that paint scheme on 28 April, towards the end of the refit). Other photographs show extra electronics installed on top of the bridge, floater nets, small depth charge racks alongside her rear superstructure and extra anti-aircraft guns mounted alongside her funnel.

Once the refit was over the Mugford prepared for the invasion of the Marianas Islands. In early June she moved to Majuro in the Marshall Island to join the invasion force. On 6 June she sailed as part of the screen for the fast carriers. On 11 June she observed the first carrier strikes, then guarded the battleships as they bombarded Saipan and Tinian. On 15 June the Americans landed on Saipan, with the Mugford taking part in the battle. However on 17 June, with a Japanese fleet approaching, she was recalled for form part of the screen for the Iowa (BB-61) and New Jersey (BB-62). The Japanese attack resulted in the battle of the Philippine Sea, in which their naval air power was almost wiped out. On 21 June, after the battle, she returned to Saipan and spent two weeks on anti-submarine patrols, fire support missions and radar picket duties.

During the invasion of Guam on 21 July the Mugford was used as a radar picket ship between Guam and Rota.  

On 28 August the Mugford sortied from Eniwetok as part of TF 38, to support attacks on the Bonin Islands and Yap in the Caroline Islands. She screened the carriers during the attack on the Bonins, but took part in the bombardment of Yap on 7 September, firing 132 five inch rounds at Yap town. She spent the rest of September operating with Destroyer Division 12 in the Caroline Islands.

On 3 October she was at sea when a typhoon hit. During the storm she lost her anchor, No.1 gun shield was damaged and her forecastle stanchions were bent, but otherwise she rode the storm. On 7 October she joined the rest of the fleet and screened them during attacks on Okinawa and Formosa. During these operations the fleet came under constant but small scale air attack, and the Mugford spent most of the sortie at general quarters.

The Mugford then joined the fleet for the invasion of Leyte. On 24-25 October she screened the carriers of TG 38.2 and 38.3 during the battle of Leyte Gulf, rescing one pilot after he was forced to ditch at sea on 25 October. After the battle she spent 27-30 October screening carriers taking part in attacks on Leyte. However on 30 October kamikaze attackers hit the Franklin (CV-13) and Belleau Wood (CV-24). The Mugford attempted to go alongside the Belleau Wood to help fight the fires, but heavy seas forced them apart. On 2 November the Mugford departed from Leyte to escort the Belleau Wood to Ulithi for initial repairs.

The Mugford underwent a minor refit at Ulithi, where her sonar and bilge keel were repaired. She was back at Leyte Gulf on 16 November, and joined TG 77.2. She was then posted in Surigao Strait on picket duties. On 25 November she rescued Able Seaman James Hunt, who had fallen overboard from HMAS Warramunga.

On 5 December the Mugford was covering a convoy of LSMs and LSTs as it was heading through the Surigao Strait on their way back from the west coast of Leyte. The convoy was attacked by a force of kamikazes, various estimated as numbering between eight and fifteen. Seven were shot down, but the others sank one LSM and damaging LST-23, LSM-20 and the Drayton (DD-366). The Mugford may also have been damaged in this attack, but she was still able to form part of the escort for the damaged ships as they attempted to safety at San Pedro Bay. However later in the afternoon another four torpedo bombers attacked. One of these aircraft crashed into the Mugford’s port uptakes, destroying a 20mm gun mount, No.1 fireroom and the machine shop and knocking out all power. Eight men were killed and fourteen wounded. Damage control parties were able to put out the fires, and she was taken under tow by LST-34. Power was restored three hours after the attack. The Mugford was able to reach San Pedro Bay, where minor repairs were carried out. She then departed for the United States for full repairs.


The Mugford reached the Mare Island Navy Yard on 5 January 1945.

The repairs were completed by 28 February 1945 whe she was photographed at sea off Mare Island. By this point her elaborate camouflage had been replaced with a simple two colour scheme, with a dark hull and lighter upper parts. She then went to San Diego for refresher training, arriving on 4 March, and was back at Pearl Harbor on 19 March.

For the next five weeks the Mugford helped new carriers work up at Pearl Harbor and took part in gunnery escorts. On 26 April the Mugford, MacDonough (DD-351) and Monterey (CVL-26) got underway for Ulithi, arriving on 8 May. She then spent a quiet month operating around Ulithi as a radar picket ship and anti-submarine patrol ship.

USS Mugford (DD-389) from above, 1946 USS Mugford (DD-389) from above, 1946

On 18 June the Mugford departed for Saipan, where she replaced the Doneff (DE-49) on anti-submarine patrols. However problems with her sonar meant that she was soon replaced herself.

On 13 July she began a spell of escort duty, and in the next two weeks she carried out two runs escorting cargo ships in from Ulithi. 

In late July Mugford and Helm left Saipan heading for Ulithi, where they arrved on 31 July.

On 8 August she sailed from the Caroline Islands as part of the escort of Convoy UOK-45, which contained 31 ships and six escorts. During the first dog watch on 8 August the Mugford carried out an attack on a possible submarine, but without success. The convoy reached Okinawa on 12 August and the Mugford anchored in Buckner Bay. She then put to sea to escort a return convoy and was at sea when news of the Japanese surrender was received.

The Mugford spent the rest of August escorting convoys in the western Pacific. On 4 September 1945 she joined TG 55,7 and was used to transport Army recovery teams from Okinawa to Nagasaki, where they were to help repatriate Allied POWs. The Army teams were landed on 11 September, and the Mugford remained at Nagasaki until 18 September. She then escorted the Cape Gloucester (CVE-109) to Okinawa, before reaching Sasebo, Japan, on 24 September. She spent the next month operating in Japanese waters, before departed for the United States.

She reached San Diego on 19 November. She was then chosen for use on the atomic bomb tests at Bikini Atoll. Most of her gear was removed, and she had to be towed to the Atoll in May 1946. She was part of the target fleet for Operation Crossroads, and was anchored in the target area for the tests of 1 July and 25 July 1946. She wasn’t badly damaged, but was contaminated by radioactive material. She was chosen for a long term study of radiological decontamination procedures, and remained at Kwajalein after being decommissioned on 29 August 1946. However it soon turned out to be almost impossible to decontaminate the target ships from Crossroads and she was scuttled at sea on 25 March 1948.

Radio Room on USS Mugford (DD-389) , 1946 Radio Room on USS Mugford (DD-389) , 1946

Mugford received nine battle stars for World War II service, for Pearl Harbor, the invasion of Guadalcanal, Eastern New Guinea, the Bismarck Archipelago, Marianas, Tinian, Western Caroline Islands, Leyte and Luzon.

Displacement (standard)


Displacement (loaded)


Top Speed

38kts design
36.8kt at 47,191shp at 1,969t on trial (Blue)


2-shaft General Electric turbines
4 boilers


6,500nm at 12kts design
6,940nm at 12kts at 2,200t wartime
4,360nm at 20kts at 2,200t wartime


341ft 3in


35ft 6.5in


Four 5in/38 guns
Sixteen 21in torpedo tubes in four quad mounts
Four .50in AA guns
Two depth charge tracks

Crew complement


Laid down

28 October 1935


31 October 1936


16 August 1937


25 March 1948

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 (3 August 2022), USS Mugford (DD-389) ,

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