USS Benson (DD-421)

USS Benson (DD-421) was the name ship of the Benson class of destroyers and served with the Neutrality Patrol, on convoy escort duty in the Atlantic, supported the invasions of North Africa, Sicily, Italy and the South of France, then finished the war on escort duty in the Pacific. She then served with the Taiwanese Navy before being scrapped in the 1970s.

The Benson was named after Admiral William S Benson, who served in the US Navy from 1872 to 1919 and became the first Chief of Naval Operations from 1915 until his retirement.

The Benson was laid down by the Bethlehem Steel Co at Quincy, Mass, on 16 May 1938, launched on 15 November 1939 when she was sponsored by Admiral Benson’s widow and commissioned on 25 July 1940.

USS Benson (DD-421) from above, 1943 USS Benson (DD-421) from above, 1943

On 22 August she left Boston heading for Guantanamo Bay and a short shakedown cruise. On 3 September she departed for Chesapeake Bay, then visited Quantico and Washington before leaving for Guantanamo Bay once again on 13 September.

The second half of her shakedown cruise was combined with diplomatic activities. On 21 September she arrived at the French colony of Cayene (French Guiana), as part of efforts to make sure that the Vichy governor there, and the Dutch in nearby Surinam, weren’t cooperating with the Nazis and to make sure that the local bauxite ore remained available to the Allies. On 27 September she transported the governor of French Guiana to the island of Iles de Salut, returning him later on the same day. After visiting Surinam and Cayene once  again she departed for New York, where she underwent a post-shakedown overhaul that lasted into the middle of November.

On 18 November the Benson left New York to start her first neutrality patrol. She would perform that role well into 1941.


In March 1941 the Benson escorted the yacht Potomac (AG-25) as she carried President Roosevelt to the Bahamas for a fishing holiday.

In May she was part of the screen of the Texas (BB-35) as the battleship patrolled in the North Atlantic. They were at sea when the Bismarck put to sea on 21 May heading for the Denmark Strait. Although the US was still neutral, President Roosevelt agreed to have the US Navy search for the German battleship and report any sightings to the Royal Navy. The Texas and her escorts took part in this search, which ended when the Bismarck was sunk on 27 May.

The Benson spent most of June at the Boston Navy Yard on yard availability. On 28 June she put to sea to join Task Force 19, which was being assembled to escort a convoy carrying US Marines to Iceland, where they would replace the British garrison.

This was a powerful fleet, built around the battleships Arkansas and New York and the cruisers Brooklyn (CL-40) and Nashville (CL-43) and protected by two destroyer divisions – Des Div 13 (Benson, Gleaves (DD-423), Mayo (DD-422) and Niblack (DD-424) and DesDiv 14 (Charles F. Hughes (DD-428), Hilary P Jones (DD-427) and Lansdale (DD-426) with DesDiv 60 as the outer screen (Bernadou (DD-153), Buck (DD-420), Ellis (DD-154), Lea (DD-118) and Upshur (DD-144)

The Task Force left Argentia, Newfoundland on 1 July and reached Iceland on 7 July. The Benson returned to Boston, spent some time taking part in exercises off Portland, Maine, then in September began seven months of escort duty on the route between Boston and Iceland, escorting supply convoys for the American garrison.


At the end of March the runs to Iceland ended, and she began a period of convoy escort duties that took her to Britain, Bermuda and the Panama Canal Zone. This began at the end of March with a convoy that saw the Benson reached Londonderry, and return to Boston escorting a west-bound convoy in early May.

On 15 May she left Newport as part of the escort for the seaplane tender Albermarle (AV-5) (Benson and Mayo (DD-422) which was carrying aircraft to Bermuda. They arrived on 17 May, the aircraft were unloaded, and the Albermarle departed for Narragansett Bay.

On 2 June the Benson, Livermore (DD-429), Mayo (DD-422), Gleaves (DD-423), Niblack (DD-424) and Kearny (DD-432) departed from Halifax as part of the escort for Convoy AT 16, heading across the Atlantic.

On 16 June the New York (BB-34), Livermore, Kearny, Gleaves, Niblack, Benson and Mayo  departed from Greenock as part of the escort for convoy CT 1, arriving at Boston on 26 June. 

On 6 August the Arkansas, Brooklyn (CL-40), Roe (DD-418), Ericsson (DD-440), Madison (DD-425), Eberle (DD-430), Nicholson (DD-442), Kearny, Mayo, Niblack, Benson, Gleaves, Hilary P. Jones (DD-427) and Charles F. Hughes (DD-428) left Brooklyn to escort a convoy of fourteen US, British and Polish troop transports to Halifax, arriving on 8 August.

In the autumn of 1942 the Benson began to train to take part in Operation Torch, the invasion of North Africa. However early on 19 October, while heading to Casco Bay for shore-bombardment exercises with the Massachusetts (BB-59) she collided with USS Trippe (DD-403). Four men were killed and another three wounded on the Trippe, and both destroyers needed repairs. The Benson was thus unable to take part in Operation Torch.

She was repaired by mid-December, when she spent some time training with the Savannah, Gleaves (DD-423) and Plunkett (DD-431) in US waters.


The Benson spent the first half of 1943 on convoy escort duties across the Atlantic and in the Mediterranean.

In July 1943 she joined the forces supporting the invasion of Sicily. On 6 July she left Oran, Algeria, as part of Task Group 80.2, the escort group for Vice Admiral H. Kent Hewitt’s Western Naval Task Force. She escorted Convoy NCS-1 to their landing area at Gela, arriving several hours before dawn on the morning of 10 July. She spent the next two days in the anti-aircraft screen, defending against a series of German raids. On 11 July she suffered a near miss that wounded 18 men, but did little damage. However on the following day she departed for Algiers, escorting the attack cargo ship Betelgeuse (AKA-11). They arrived on 18 July.

A month of patrol and escort duty followed, before on 24 August she joined Task Force 81, to take part in the invasion of mainland Italy at Salerno. The landings began on 9 September and once again the Germans responded in force. On 11 September a radio controlled glide bomb launched from a Dornier Do.217 hit the cruiser Savannah (CL-42). It hit No.3 turret and penetrated into the ship, exploding in the lower ammunition handling room. The explosion opened up seams in her hull and a hole in her bottom. However effective damage control measures stopped the flooding, put out the fires and restored power. The Benson then escorted her to Malta for temporary repairs. The Benson then returned to Salerno, where she rejoined the anti-aircraft screen. On 19 September she claimed a Fw-190.

The Benson was also used to support the fighting on land, carrying out a number of shore bombardments, as well as escort duties.

On 2 October she rescued the crew of a Wellington that had been forced down into the sea.

On 13 December she was part of a anti-submarine force operating north of Algiers (Benson, Niblack, Wainwright and HMS Calpe). This force detected U-593. The Wainwright and Calpe carried out depth charge attacks that forced the U-boat to the surface. The Wainwright then opened fire and within two minutes the U-boat crew abandoned ship. A boarding party was sent across, and the crew was rescued, but the submarine sank.


At the end of January 1944 the Benson left Casablanca to escort Convoy GUS-28 to New York. She then entered the New York Navy Yard for an overhaul, which was followed by training off the US East Coast.

USS Benson (DD-421) in Camo Measure 32 design 34D, 1944 USS Benson (DD-421) in Camo Measure 32 design 34D, 1944

On 20 April she left the US as part of TG 27.4, reaching Oran on 1 May. On 9 May she departed for Gibraltar as part of the escort of Convoy UGS-40. On 11 May the convoy was attacked by thirty German aircraft. The Benson claimed two Junkers Ju.8ss, a probably third and damage to two others, and the entire convoy was undamaged. 

In mid-May she was part of an anti-submarine group operating in the approaches to Oran (Benson (DD-421), Ludlow (DD-438), Niblack (DD-424) and Woolsey (DD-437). On 17 May the group responded to a sighting of torpedo tracks and found U-960. This was the start of a two day battle. On the night of 18-19 May the destroyers split into two groups of two. An aircraft then sighted the U-boat ten miles ahead of Niblack and Ludlow. They carried out 11 depth charge attacks over four hours, and forced the U-boat to surface just as the Benson, Woolsey and Madison (DD-425) arrived on the scene. The five destroyers all opened fire, and a Vickers Wellington joined in, dropping depth charges. The submarine was hit several times before submerging. Niblack then dropped more depth charges and the submarine was forced to surface. Her crew abandoned her just before she sank at 0715 on 19 May. Niblack and Ludlow were given credit for the sinking, but all five destroyers played a part in the battle.

The Benson spent the next few months on escort duty in the Mediterranean, carrying out a mix of convoy and individual escorts.

In August 1944 she was part of TG 80.6 during the invasion of the South of France. This group’s main role was to screen other warships. The Benson was also used as a traffic control vessel during the invasion, and took part in a number of shore bombardments. She blockaded San Remo near Toulon and supported the French cruisers Montcalm and Jeanne d’Arc as they bombarded the same port.


Early in January 1945 the Benson took part in a bombardment of German troops who were threatening to break the western end of the Allied lines in Italy around Livorno (battle of Garfagnana). During this battle she was attacked by small boats (either German E-Boats or Italian MAS boats) but was undamaged. She then escorted the French cruiser George Leygues as she bombarded German ship yards at Pietra, Italy.

In late January 1944 the Benson departed to the United States for yard repairs and training which lasted into February. She then carried out a last trans-Atlantic escort run, to Plymouth.

In April she was ordered to move to the Pacific. She passed through the Panama Canal on 12 May and reached Pearl Harbor on 29 May. On 14 June she left Pearl Harbor as part of the screen of the Lexington (CV-16), Cowpens (CV-25) and Hancock (CV-19) as the three carriers headed to the western Pacific. A period of upkeep followed at Leyte, before she moved to Ulithi. From then until the Japanese surrender on 15 August she was used on convoy and patrol duties between Ulithi and Okinawa.

On 28 August she joined the screen for the convoy carrying the first occupation troops to Japan. This convoy entered Tokyo Bay on 2 September, and on 2-3 September the first troops landed at Yokohama.


After the end of the war the Benson escorted five convoys between the Philippines and Tokyo Bay. On 4 September she left Tokyo with Madison and Mayo (DD-422) to escort the first of these, Transport Squadron 16 to Guam. On the way they were diverted to Leyte Gulf, arriving on 11 September. On 12 September the same three destroyers were ordered to Manila, arriving on 14 September.

After two months of this duty the Benson was ordered back to the United States to be inactivated. She left Yokohama on 4 November, reached Charleston on 6 December and was decommissioned in 18 March 1946.

Almost eight years later the Benson was removed from the reserve and on 26 February 1954 she was loaned to the Government of Taiwan, where she became the Lo Yang (DD-14). She operated with the Taiwanese Navy until the mid 1970s. Early in 1974 she was surveyed and it was decided to replace her with another former destroyer, USS Taussig (DD-746), which took the same Taiwanese name. The Benson was returned to US control, but was struck off on 1 November 1974 and sold to Taiwan to the scrapped.

Benson (DD-421) earned four battle stars for her World War II service, for the invasion of Sicily, Salerno, the invasion of the South of France and escorting Convoy UGS-40. Anyone who served on her from 30 Sep - 5 Nov 45 qualified for the Navy Occupation Service Clasp.


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

16 May 1938


15 November 1939


25 July 1940

Sold to Taiwan

26 February 1954

Struck off by Taiwan

1 November 1974

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 (21 February 2023), USS Benson (DD-421) ,

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