USS Gillespie (DD-609)

USS Gillespie (DD-609) was a Benson class destroyer that served in the Aleutians, on Atlantic convoy escort duties, in New Guinea, New Britain, the Admiralty Islands and at Peleliu, Iwo Jima and Okinawa.

The Gillespie was named after Major Archibald H. Gillespie who served in the US Marine Corps during the American conquest of California in the 1840s.

The Gillespie was laid down at the Bethlehem Steep Corp, San Francisco, launched on 1 November 1942 when she was sponsored by the wife of Rear Admiral Hugo W. Osterhaus, and commissioned on 18 September 1942. On 28 December she departed for the Aleutians.


She reached Sand Bay, Great Sitkin Island on 9 January 1943 and spent the next month on escort, anti-submarine warfare and patrol duties.

USS Gillespie (DD-609) from the right, San Francisco, 1942 USS Gillespie (DD-609) from the right, San Francisco, 1942

On 18 February she took part in a bombardment of Attu Island, firing 400 rounds of 5in shells at targets at Holtz Bay and Chicagof Harbor. On the evening of 18 February she joined the Indianapolis and Coghlan to carry out an anti-shipping sweep to the south-west of Attu. At 2225 the Coglan spotted smoke on the horizon, which turned out to be from the Japanese cargo ship Akagane Maru, heading for Attu.

The Indianopolis used her 8in guns, and hit with her third salvo, setting the merchant ship on fire from bow to stern. This triggered a large explosion, but she stayed afloat.

The Gillespie and Coghlan (DD-609) were ordered to sink the burning transport with torpedoes. The Coghlan fired the first three, but without success – the first passed directly under her, the second detonated prematurely and the third missed. The Gillespie fired one that failed to explode and one that porpoised along the surface and missed. The Coghlan fired another torpedo that detonated prematurely then tried to sink her with gun fire. Eventually the Akagane Maru was sunk by the destroyer guns.

On 4 March the Gillespie returned to San Francisco for an overhaul. She then departed for the east coast, reaching New York on 11 April 1943.  For the rest of the year she was used on escort duties in the Atlantic, carrying out four round trips between the US and Casablanca, escorting reinforcements to North Africa.


At the start of 1944 the Gillespie was allocated to the Seventh Fleet, supporting MacArthur’s campaign on and around New Guinea. She left Norfolk on 2 January 1944, and reached Funafuti after twenty days. She then escorted troop ships to Milne Bay on New Guinea, arriving on 7 February.

In late February she supported the consolidation of Saidor, when the Allies had landed on 2 January 1944. She then escorted LSTs to Cape Gloucester on New Britain, where the Americans had landed late in 1943.

On 29 February the Americans invaded Los Negros in the Admiralty Islands. The Gillespie and her LSTs reached Hayne Bay on Los Negros on 6 March, two days before the end of the battle. The Gillespie was used to patrol off the north-east coast of Los Negros.

USS Gillespie (DD-609) from the front, San Francisco USS Gillespie (DD-609) from the front, San Francisco

On 2 January 1944 she departed Norfolk for the Pacific, reaching Funafuti atoll 20 days later, and escorting troop ships thence to Milne Bay, New Guinea, where she put in 7 February. As part of the 7th Fleet the destroyer supported the consolidation of Saidor in late February and escorted LST's from Cape Sudest, New Guinea, to Cape Gloucester, New Britain, and Los Negros in the Admiralties.

On 12 March the Americans invaded Manus. The Gillespie was used for fire support during the landings in Seeadler Harbor, the island’s massive main harbour. On 14 March she bombarded the eastern tip of nearby Pityilu Islands. On 16 March the Gillespie, Hobby (DD-610), Kalk (DD-611) and Reid (DD-369) left Seeadler Harbor to escort a group of LSTs back to Cape Sudest.

She was back at Manus on 24-25 March when she bombarded targets on Pityilu, Manus, and Rambutyo Islands. She was back at Oro Bay on New Guinea on 26 March.

After a period of training and patrols she joined the fleet supporting the invasion of Biak Island, off the coast of New Guinea. She provided fire support for the initial invasion of 27 May, then served as a fighter director and warning picket off Biak from 31 May to 2 June.

On 5-6 July she bombarded targets on the west coast of Noemfoor Island, where the Americans had landed on 2 July. On 20 July she bombarded Insomeken Point and Arimi Island, along the east coast of Noemfoor.

After another period of training and patrol duties the Gillespie joined the forces supporting the invasion of Peleliu. She formed part of the screen for the naval forces at Peleliu from 15 September to 14 October.

On 14 October she departed for Bremerton, Washington for an overhaul, arriving on 5 November. This lasted for just under two months.


On 3 January 1945 she left San Diego heading for Pearl Harbor, where she took part in training exercises. She reached the US base at Ulithi on 8 February and joined the Logistic Support Forces. She was used to escort supply ships and elements of the 5th Fleet during the invasion of Iwo Jima.

From 13 March-28 May the Gillespie supported the invasion of Okinawa. On 8 April she was attacked by two Japanese aircraft, shooting down both. She returned to Ulithi on 31 May.

From 1 July to 15 August the Gillespie formed part of the screen of the fleet that attacked the Japanese home islands, a mix of carrier attack and some shore bombardments.

After the Japanese surrender she spent 16 August-2 September on escort and patrol duties. She entered Tokyo Bay on 10 September 1945, eight days after the signing of the Japanese surrender.

She departed for the US on 12 October reaching San Diego on 23 November. After an overhaul at Boston she moved to Charleston, arriving on 14 January. She was decommissioned there on 17 April 1946, and remained in the reserve until she was struck off on 1 July 1971. She was sunk as a target in 1973.

Gillespie earned nine battle stars during World War II, for the Bismarck Archipelago, Eastern New Guinea, Hollandia, Western New Guinea, Western Caroline Islands, Iwo Jima, 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

Armour - belt


 - deck



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



1 November 1942


18 September 1942

Struck off

1 July 1971

Sunk as target


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 (6 July 2023), USS Gillespie (DD-609) ,

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