USS Plunkett (DD-431)

USS Plunkett (DD-431) was a Gleaves class destroyer that served with the Neutrality Patrol, on escort duty in the Atlantic and Mediterraean, and supported the landings on Sicily, at Salerno and Anzio (where she was hit by a German bomb), the D-Day landings and the invasion of the South of France.

The Plunkett (DD-431) was laid down on 1 March 1939 by the Federal Shipbuilding and Dry Dock Co of, Kearny, N.J., launched on 7 March 1940 when she was sponsored by Mrs. Charles P. Plunkett, the widow of Rear Admiral Plunkett, and commissioned on 17 July 1940.

USS Plunkett (DD-431), Rhode Island, 1945 USS Plunkett (DD-431), Rhode Island, 1945

The Plunkett was named after Charles Peshall Plunkett, who served in the US Navy during the Spanish-American war then commanded five Naval Railway Batteries on the Western Front in 1918. After the war he served as commander, Destroyers, Atlantic Fleet, Chief of Staff of the Naval War College, President of the Board of Inspection of Survey, and Commandant of the New York Navy Yard and 3rd Naval District.

The Plunkett was originally classified as a Livermore class ship, but became a Gleaves class ship when the two classes were merged because the two Gleaves class ships were given the same more powerful engines as the Livermore class.

After her shakedown cruise the Plunkett joined the Neutrality Patrol, operating in the Western Atlantic and the Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico. She took part in the early blockage of Tampico to stop German ships there from sailing, then off Martinique, which was in Vichy French hands, to make sure that the warships there didn’t attempt to return to France.

As the US Navy became increasingly involved in the battle of the Atlantic the Plunkett moved to convoy escort and patrol duties in the North Atlantic.

In October 1941 the Plunkett and Niblack (DD-424) escorted the new carrier Wasp on her way from Hampton Roads to Cuba.

The Plunkett formed part of Task Force 19, which was formed to escort a convoy carrying US Marines to Iceland to 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 on 1 July and reached Reykjavik on 7 July.

The Plunkett was part of the escort of Convoy SC 48 in mid-October 1941, the first major convoy battle to involve the US Navy. During this battle the Plunkett was stalked by a U-boat, while USS Kearny was torpedoed, with the loss of 11 men, but was still able to reach Iceland.

She was on her way from Iceland to Argentia when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor.


On 7 January the Plunkett, Cole, Decatur, Badger and USCHC Campbell left Iceland to escort the oilers Sapelo (AO-11) and Mattole (AO-17) and four merchant ships south to join westbound Convoy ON-53 in the mid-ocean. Some of the escorts carried on to the US West Coast.

On 26 March 1942 the Madison left Casco Bay as part of Task Force 39 (Washington (BB-56), Wasp, Tuscaloosa, Wichita (CA-45), Wainwright (DD-419), Plunkett (DD-431), Wilson (DD-408), Lang (DD-399) and Sterett (DD-407), heading for Scapa Flow to join the British Home Fleet. On the second day of the voyage the force commander, Rear Admiral John W. Wilcox, was swept overboard, possibly after suffering a heart attack. Rear Admiral Robert C. Giffen replaced him. The task force arrived at Scapa Flow on 4 April. She carried out a number of patrols in the North Sea and escorted convoys on the first leg of the dangerous run to Russia.

USS Plunkett (DD-431) from above USS Plunkett (DD-431) from above

At the start of May she reached Iceland as part of TF 99 (Washington, Wichita, Tuscaloosa, Wainwright, Madison, Plunkett and Wilson. On 12 May the New York, Plunkett, Wilson and Madison left Iceland heading for New York. She was detached from the formation on 14 May and made her own way to the US East Coast.

On 5 June the Charles F. Hughes, Hilary P Jones, Madison and Plunkett (DD-431) escorted the South Dakota at the start of her shakedown cruise.

On 10 June she left Norfolk as part of TF 39, heading for Cristobal, at the Atlantic end of the Panama Canal. She moored there on 17 June and the task force was dissolved.

A brief spell on coastal and Caribbean escort duty followed, before in August she returned to the North Atlantic route.

On 27 August the Arkansas, Brooklyn, several transports and their destroyer escort left Greenock heading for the US. During the voyage the Plunkett carried out a depth charge attack on a suspected U-boat but without results.

On 2 November she left New York to escort a reinforcement convoy to North Africa, supporting Operation Torch. She was delayed at sea to allow the port of Casablanca to be cleared, and reached there with her convoy on 18 November. After a brief period patrolling off the coast of Morocco she returned to New York and operations off southern New England.

Just before Christmas 1942 she took part in training exercises off Norfolk with the Savannah, Benson and Gleaves.



After escorting another convoy to Casablanca she took part in shore bombardment exercises in Chesapeake Bay. From then until May 1943 she was used on coastal escort duties.

On 10 May she departed for Oran as part of TF 60. Between late May and July she was used on anti-submarine warfare and convoy escort duties along the coast of North Africa.

She was then allocated to the forces taking part in Operation Husky, the invasion of Sicily. She left Mers-el-Kebir on 6 July with the Western Task Force. During the landings she was used to screen the transport ships and minelayers in TG 80.5. She then patrolled off the anchorage at Gela and supported minelayers, before leaving the assault area on 12 July.

On 17 July she returned to Sicily, taking up a position off Scogletti, to the east of Gela. Later on the same day she joined with the Nelson, Niblack and Glennon to move to Gozo to join up with Convoy NCS-3, a supply convoy. They met the convoy on the morning of 18 July and escorted it back to the Gela area, arriving on 20 July. She left again later in the month to escort a convoy to Palermo, arriving on 31 July.

In August she was used to support the US forces advancing east along the north coast of Italy.

On 5 August the Plunkett and the Gleaves (DD-423) accepted the surrender of the Italian island of Utica and later landed occupation troops on the island.  

On the night of 12-13 August the Plunkett and Benson bombarded the coastal road between Brolo and Patti to try and stop enemy forces retreating to the east.

On the night of 14-15 August the Plunkett and Gleaves bombarded the area behind the German troops retreating along the coastal road. On the following morning US troops captured Spadafora.

On the night of 17-18 August the Philadelphia, Plunkett and Benson took part in a bombardment of the Italian mainland, attacking Gioia Taura.

In September she joined TG 81.6 and took part in the landings at Salerno (Operation Avalanche). She was used to screen the transports and landing craft during the landings. 

On 11 September Plunkett formed part of the escort for the damaged cruiser Savannah on the first stage of her voyage from Salerno back to Malta for repairs.

On 13-14 September she attempted to save the british hospital ship Newfoundland, which had been bombed and was on fire. On the evening of 14 September, after 36 hours of efforts to save her, the Plunkett was ordered to fire on and sink the badly damaged ship.

For the rest of the year she carried out a mix of convoy escort duties on the routes from North Africa to Naples and fire support missions.


On 21 January 1944 she left Naples to escort the follow-up assault group to Anzio. After arriving at Anzio she remained off the battlefield to screen the transports. On 24 January the fleet was subjected to an air attack. Just after 1738 she was attacked by two glider bombs and two Ju-88s. She was able to avoid the glider bombs, but more bombers joined the battle and at 1757 she was hit by a 250kg bomb. The bomb killed 51, wounded many more, and set her on fire. Despite damage to the fire control equipment all the fires were out by 1821. She then headed to Palermo on her one working engine.

Temporary repairs at Sicily allowed her to move to Casablanca, and then on to New York for permanent repairs.

She was back in action on 5 May when she left New York to head for Belfast to join the forces being gathered for the D-Day invasions.

On 31 May the Plunkett, Jeffers, Murphy and Glennon left Belfest to take part in anti e-boat exercises off Ardorssan, Scotland, returning to Belfast on 1 June. On 3 June the Plunkett, Jeffers, Glennon, Gherardi, Blessmen (DE-69) and Amesbury (DE-66) left Belfast heading south to move to the south coast. Their task was to escort Convoy U1A across the Channel to Utah Beach.

On D-Day itself she screened the transports off Omaha Beach. From then to 9 June she carried out a mix of fire support and patrol duties.

On 7 June she provided fire support for the US Rangers fighting at Point du Hoc, replacing the Thompson, which had to withdraw to replenish her ammo at Portland.

On 9 June she had to return to England to replenish her own supplies, but she was soon back off Normandy.

On 13 June she fired on the British cable layer Murdaugh Monach having failed to identify her as friendly.

On 25 June she took part in a massive naval bombardment of Cherbourg, forming part of Battle Group 2, with the task of attacking Marine-Kusten-Batterie Hamburg, six miles to the east of Cherbourg itself.

After this bombardment the Plunkett moved back to Northern Ireland, where she joined TG 120.6. At the start of July this group departed for the Mediterranean to take part in Operation Dragoon, the invasion of the South of France.

On 13 August she left Naples as part of the fleet supporting Operation Dragoon. She was used for screening duties, and to transport officials to and from the beaches. She was also used for shore bombardments off St Tropez, Port de Bouc and Marseilles.

On 24-25 August the Quincy, Kearny and Plunkett attacked a pair of German batteries near the Baie de Marseilles that were stopping minesweepers from operating. Some damage was done to these targets. On 25 August the Plunkett was relieved by the McLanahan (DD-615).

On 23 November she left for Oran. From there she escorted a convoy west to the United States.



She reached New York on 16 January 1945. A period of training, testing and anti-submarine patrols followed.

She departed for the UK as part of the escort for another convoy in early May, but the war in Europe ended while the convoy was still at sea.

On 27 May she returned to the US where she underwent a refit and training to prepare for a transfer to the Pacific. She left on 6 August, passed through the Panama Canal on 13 August and was on her way north to San Diego when the war in the Pacific ended.

In September she was used to escort ships carrying the occupation forces from the US to Japan.

In October and November she escorted ships moving forces from the Philippines to Japan. In late November she moved to the Aleutians.

She returned to the US east coast, and was decommissioned at Charleston on 3 May 1946. After over a decade out of commission she was reactivated and transferred to the Nationalist Chinese on Taiwan on 16 February 1959. She became the Nan Yang (DD-17) and remained in service until 1971. 

Plunkett earned five battle stars during the Second World War, for Sicily, Salerno, Anzio, Normandy and the invasion of the South of France. Anyone who served on her during four periods between 26 Juner and 7 December 1941 qualified for the American Defense Service Medal. Anyone who served on her between 15 September-1 October or 26 October-4 November 1945 qualified for the Navy Occupation Service Medal (Asia).

Displacement (standard)

1,630t design
1,838t as built

Displacement (loaded)


Top Speed

35kts design
36.5kt at 50,200shp at 2,220t on trial (Niblack)


2-shaft Westinghouse turbines
4 boilers
50,000hp design


6500nm at 12kt design


348ft 3in


36ft 1in


Five 5in/38 guns
Ten 21in torpedo tubes
Six 0.5in AA guns
Two depth charge tracks

Crew complement


Laid down

1 March 1939


7 March 1940


17 July 1940

To Nationalist China

16 February 1959

Struck off

1 November 1972



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 (5 October 2023), USS Plunkett (DD-431) ,

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