USS Mayrant (DD-402) was a Benham class destroyer that served in the Atlantic from 1939-41, joining the neutrality patrol. She was near Cape Town when the Japanese attacked Pearl Habor, and spent the first five months of 1942 on convoy escort duty in the North Atlantic. She then joined the British Home Fleet and took part in operations against the Tirpitz and escorted convoys to Murmansk. In October-November she escorted the trans-Atlantic convoys to North Africa to take par tin Operation Torch, and then supported the invasions. 1943 began with a spell of convoy escort work off the US East Coast, followed by a similar role off North Africa. From July-November she operated around Sicily, before suffering damage that took her out until May 1944. She spent the next year operating off the US east coast, before moving to the Pacific in May 1945, where she served as a convoy escort. After the end of the war she helped accept the surrender of Marcus Island. She was later used as a test ship in the Bikini Atoll atomic bomb tests and was decommissioned soon afterwards.
The Mayrant was named after Captain John Mayrant, who served in the US Navy during the War of Independence, acting as an aide to John Paul Jones.
The Mayrant was laid down at the Boston Navy Yard on 15 April 1937, launched on 14 May when she was sponsored by Mrs E. E. Sheely, a descendant of Captain Mayrant, and commissioned on 19 September 1939.
In the summer of 1940 the Mayrant escorted President Roosevelt as he toured the defences of the US East Coast. Later in 1940 she escorted the president again, this time as he visited the new bases gained under the destroyers for bases deal with Britain.
In the spring of 1941 the Mayrant was allocated to the forces involved in the neutrality patrols, which at first focused on the areas close to the US coast, but slowly expanded their range east across the Atlantic. In May the US Navy began to protect convoys in the western Atlantic. The Mayrant operated with the neutrality patrol in the spring and summer of 1941.
On 20 June the Mayrant was on a neutrality patrol with the Texas, Trippe (DD-403) and Rhind (DD-404) when they were spotted by U-203, within the German ‘blockade’ zone. However the US ships were faster than the submarine, so the Germans were unable to attack.
In August the Mayrant was part of the force that protected the Atlantic Charter Conferences between Roosevelt and Churchill. After the conference was over she escorted HMS Prince of Wales on the first stages of her voyage back across the Atlantic with Churchill on board.
On 10-13 October she was part of TG 14.3 (built around Yorktown (CV-5), New Mexico (BB-40) and Quincy (CA-39) as it moved from Argenta to Casco Bay, Maine. The Mayrant suffered damage in bad weather on the way.
In late October the Mayrant formed part of the escort for a convoy heading from Halifax to Capetown. On 5 December she put to sea from Capetown, and was at sea when news arrived of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. She spent the rest of December operating alongside the Royal Navy, escorting troop convoys bringing British and Canadian troops to South Africa.
In January 1942 the Mayrant returned to the United States, and began to serve on North Atlantic convoy duty.
In April she joined the British Home Fleet at Scapa Flow. She took part in operations in the Denmark Strait to hunt for the Tirpitz, which had recently moved to Norway and posed a threat to the convoys to Russia. The Mayrant also escorted several of the convoys to Murmansk.
She returned to the United States in July, and then moved to the Caribbean to take part in anti-submarine warfare training. This lasted until October, with some breaks.
On 4 September she left Colon with the Rowan (DD-405) and Corry to escort Transport Division 6 to Norfolk, arriving on 11 September.
In October the Mayrant returned to convoy escort duties. In November she was part of the escort for one of the convoys heading to North Africa to take part in Operation Torch. She then provided fire support off Casablanca on 8-9 November. On 8 November she was targeted by fire from the El Hank battery at Casablanca.
At the start of 1943 the Mayrant was used to protect supply ships heading to the North African war zone, but she soon returned to the US East coast, where she spent several months on escort duty.
The Mayrant returned to North Africa waters in May, reaching Mers-el-Kebir on 23 May. In June she operated along the North Africa coast between Oran and Bizerte, escorting convoys and carrying out anti-submarine patrols.
On 14 July the Mayrant joined the forces operating in support of the invasion of Sicily, which had begun five days earlier.
On the morning of 26 July she was patrolling 18 miles to the north-east of Palermo. At 0931 a formation of Ju-88s was detected on radar. They attacked the Mayrant, and although they didn’t score any direct hits, one bomb exploded 5 feet to her port, alongside the forward engine room. The attack killed five and wounded 18. The shock knocked out her radar and briefly caused a loss of electrical power, but the most serious damage was done in the engineering spaces. Here the explosion caused a 48 feet long indentation in the side of the ship, with the side of the ship pushed up to seven feet in. Unsurprisingly this caused two large tears in her hull and several smaller ones, which allowed water into all four machinery spaces. The aft fireroom and forward engine room flooded almost immediately, and the aft engineroom in ten minutes. The forward fireroom filled more slowly, but the water had risen to within 4ft of sea level by 0945. As a result the ship lost all motive power, and had a four degree list to starboard, giving her only 1 foot of freeboard at the lowest point on that side. In an attempt to reduce weight all of her torpedoes, depth charges, and 5in and 40mm ammo from the magazines were thrown overboard and her whaleboat was launched.
Other ships soon came to her assistance. The Wainwright (DD-419), Rhind (DD-404), Skill (AM-115) and Strive (AM-117) all sent pumps across by boat. The Strive was then secured to her port side and provided electrical power for her 5in and 40mm guns and electric pumps, and fuel for her gasoline pumps. The Strive then attempted to tow her from the side, but struggled to keep on course. The Skill then took over, towing from ahead, while the Strive stayed alongside. At about noon other ships in the area were attacked by enemy aircraft and the Mayrant was able to use her 5in guns against them. SC-693 was then made fast along the starboard side and used her pump to help keep the water level in the forward fireroom down. The damaged ship reached Palermo harbour by 1615.
Repair work began at Palermo. Extra pumps helped remove some of the water. Emergency patchs were secured over the holes. She was then drained, inclined to starboard to bring the damaged area out of the water and concrete patches created to plug the holes.
On 9-10 August she was towed from Palermo to Malta by the Narragansett (AT-88). During the trip the concrete patches cracked and leaked, but the pumps were just about able to keep ahead of the water. At Malta whe went into the dry dock and had small steel patches welded over the holes. The dry dock was then needed for other ships, but she was back in six weeks later for more extensive repairs. This time a patch of 1.4in steel plate was welded over the worst damaged area, and faired into the original shape of the hull. It was strengthened by brackets connecting it to the original structure. All of the damaged longitudinal girders and wrinkled hull plates were replaced. Her machinery was also repaired, giving her enough power to reach 23 knots on a single shaft. These repairs were completed by 14 November, and she was then able to cross the Atlantic under her own power, arriving at Charleston Navy Yard on 15 December.
The Mayrant’s repairs were completed by May 1944, and on 15 May she left Charleston heading for Casco Bay, Maine. She spent most of the next twelve months operating along the east coast, escorting coastal convoys as well as new cruisers and carriers on their shakedown cruises. She also escorted two convoys to the Mediterranean.
On 5 April 1945 the Mayrant was sent to help the cargo ship Atlantic States, which had been torpedoed off Cape Cod. She was able to transfer some of her crew across to the merchant ship, and then spent the next two days towing her towards safety. After two days ocean going tugs arrived and took over.
By now it was clear the war in Europe was close to its end, and the Mayrant was transferred to the Pacific Fleet, arriving at Pearl Harbor on 21 May. She spend some time training for shore bombardment and night operations, before on 2 June saled for Ulithi. She was then used to escort convoys to Iwo Jima, Okinawa and Saipan.
After the Japanese surrender, the Mayrant made the preliminary arrangements for the surrender of the Japanese garrison on Marcus Island in the central pacific. The island surrendered on 31 August, and the Mayrant spent most of the rest of the year on air-sea rescue duties in the Marshalls and Marianas.
On 30 December the Mayrant reached San Diego, but she had been chosen to be one of the test ships for the atomic bomb tests at Bikini Atoll. She survived the tests, but was too badly contaminated to be used again. She was decommissioned on 28 August, the day after she was was towed away from Bikini by the Etlah (AN-79), arriving at Pearl Harbor on 12 September. She was destroyed on 8 April 1948.
Mayrant received three battle stars for World War Il service, for the invasion of North Africa, the invasion of Sicily, and escorting Convoy UGS-6.