USS Ralph Talbot (DD-390)

USS Ralph Talbot (DD-390) was a Bagley class destroyer that fought at Pearl Harbor, during the invasion of Guadalcanal, the invasion of New Georgia and the battle of Kolombangara, the fighting on New Guinea and New Britain, the Marianas Islands, Leyte, Luzon, Iwo Jima and Okinawa.

The Ralph Talbot was named after Ralph Talbot, who served with the 1st Marine Aviation Force on the Western Front in France, winning the Medal of Honor before being killed in a crash on take-off on 25 October 1918.

USS Ralph Talbot (DD-390) being christened, 1936 USS Ralph Talbot (DD-390) being christened, 1936

The Ralph Talbot was laid down at the Boston Navy Yard on 28 October 1935, launched on 31 October 1936 when she was sponsored by Talbot’s mother Mary Talbot, and commissioned on 14 October 1937. She had been constructed in a dry dock (alongside the Mugford (DD-389), so her launch simply involved filling the dry dock with water, a rather less dramatic method than most! She remained on the east coast into 1938, and was photographed off the Boston Navy Yard on 23 March 1938

The Ralph Talbot was assigned to the Destroyers, Battle Force, based at San Diego. She spent the rest of 1938 and 1939 to the middle of 1941 operating in the eastern Pacific. In early 1941 she underwent a major overhaul at Mare Island, and in April she rejoined the fleet at San Diego. In mid April she moved to Pearl Harbor, where she was based for the rest of the year.

When the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, the Ralph Talbot was moored between the Patterson and Henley at buoy X-11. She was able to get underway by 0900 and was out of the harbour by 0934. On the way out she fired on two aircraft that were then seen to crash, but in both cases other ships were also firing on the same aircraft, so she could only claim partial victories.

USS Ralph Talbot (DD-390) at New York, 1938 USS Ralph Talbot (DD-390) at New York, 1938

On 14 December the Ralph Talbot sailed as part of TF 14, screening the Saratoga (CV-3).

On 26 December 1941 she was at Midway, protecting ships that were carrying supplies to the island.


At the start of 1942 Admiral Nimitz decided to combine Halsey’s and Fletcher’s task forces into a single force (TF 16), which would carry out a raid on Japanese bases in the Gilberts and Marshalls. The two forces met on 25 January and headed towards their first targets.

On 1 February Halsey split the force into three. TG 8.5 consisted of the Enterprise, with Blue, McCall and Ralph Talbot as her escort. The Enterprise’s aircraft then attacked Kwajalein, Maleolap and Wotje, while the other two groups carried out gunnery bombardments.

On the afternoon of 23 February the task force split, with the Enterprise, escorted by Blue, Dunlap, Ralph Talbot and Craven heading towards Wake Island. On 24 February the Enterprise’s aircraft attacked the island, and the small squadron then rejoined the main task force. On 4 March the force carried out an air attack on Marcus Island, with the Ralph Talbot again part of the screen of the Enterprise.  

Task Force 16 returned to Pearl Harbor on 9 March. The Ralph Talbot was moved to TF 15 on 19 March, and from then until May was used to escort convoys moving between Hawaii and the US West Coast.

On 11 April 1942 she was photographed at Mare Island Navy Yard, with newly installed 20mm guns in gun tubs in front of the bridge. Her port side anchor and boat davits had also been removed, to save weight.

In early June the Ralph Talbot escorted a group of auxiliaries that operated to the north-west of Hawaii and were used to replenish the ships that had fought at the battle of Midway. She then helped escort Task Force 16 back to Pearl Harbor.

USS Ralph Talbot (DD-390) off Mare Island , 1942 USS Ralph Talbot (DD-390) off Mare Island , 1942

On 14 June she departed for Australia, from where she then moved to New Zealand to join the forces about to take part in the invasion of Guadalcanal. She joined TG 62.6, arrived off Guadalcanal on 7 August and was used to patrol off the transport area.

On the night of 8-9 August the Ralph Talbot was placed on picket duty to the north-east of Savo Island. However she failed to spot the Japanese force under Rear Admiral Gunichi Mikawa that was heading into the area (although the Japanese had spotted her on their way in), and the first she knew of the resulting battle of Savo Island was when she received a radio message from another destroyer saying that strange ships were south of the island. Lt Commander Joseph W Callahan turned the Ralph Tablot south and headed towards the fighting – the flashes of heavy gunfire were soon visible to the south-east.

By the time the Ralph Talbot was reacting, the Japanese had already sunk the Astoria and crippled three more Allied cruisers. At about 0215 three of the Japanese cruisers opened fire on the lone destroyer, but she was temporarily saved by a misunderstanding on the part of Callahan, who though that the incoming fire was coming from friendly ships. He turned on her recognition lights and radioed his ships identity. This caused enough confusion to end this first attack, but a few minutes later the light cruiser Yubari illuminated the Ralph Talbot with her searchlights and opened fire. The Ralph Talbot returned fire and even fired four torpedoes, but her own searchlights were damaged, so she was largely firing at gun flashes.

The Ralph Talbot suffered six hits, in the charthouse, wardroom, on the torpedo tubes on her starboard side and under gun No.4. Twelve men were killed, including the ship’s doctor and chief pharmacist’s mate. Luckily the Ralph Talbot then entered a rain squall and disappeared from sight on the Japanese cruiser, which left the scene. The Ralph Talbot was now in real danger of sinking, listing 20 degrees to starboard and with the bridge on fire. However Callahan was an experienced engineering officer and was able to lead a successful damage control effort. The flooding and fires were under control by 0330 and communications were restored by 0700.

The Ralph Talbot needed to return to the United States for full repairs, reaching Mare Island on 11 September. She was photographed off Mare Island on 28 October, by which time the repairs appear to have been completed, and she departed for Hawaii on 11 November. She spent a few weeks training at Hawaii, before departing for Australia on 16 December.


The Ralph Talbot reached Brisbane on 2 January 1943 and spent the next four months on exercises or escorting convoys along the north or east coasts of Australia.

On 13 May she arrived at Noumea, from where she was used to escort convoys operating in the Solomon Islands.

On 30 June the Ralph Talbot covered the landings on Rendova, at the start of the New Georgia campaign. Later on the same day she rescued 300 survivors from the McCawley (APA-4). On 5 July she fired at Rice Anchorage then landed troops from the 148th Infantry. On 9 and 11 July she took part in the bombardment of Munda.

On 12-13 July she joined TG 36.1 in a sweep up the Slot, triggering the battle of Kolombangara, a clash with a force of one cruiser and five destroyers escorting destroyer transports who were bringing reinforcements to New Georgia. During the battle the Japanese lost the light cruiser Jintsu, but managed to land their reinforcements. On the Allied side all three cruisers engaged suffered heavy damage, and the destroyer Gwim (DD-433) was badly damaged. Attempts to save her failed, and the Ralph Talbot had to sink her with torpedoes.

USS Blue (DD-387) and USS Ralph Talbot (DD-390) , Mare Island Navy Yard, 1942 USS Blue (DD-387) and USS Ralph Talbot (DD-390) , Mare Island Navy Yard, 1942

In August and September the Ralph Talbot carried out patrol and escort duties in the Solomons.

On the night of 2 October the Ralph Talbot, Taylor and the Terry (DD-513), clashed with a force of barges between Choiseul and Kolombangara. She was at sea during the battle of Vella Lavella (6 October 1943), but although her group was ordered to head to the battle they didn’t take part in the fighting.

On 27 October she sailed for Australia, then moved to Milne Bay, arriving on 3 November. She was then used on anti-submarine and anti-aircraft patrols and escort missions around New Guinea.

On the night of 29-30 November the Ralph Talbot, Helm and HMAS Warramunga and HMS Arunta carried out a bombardment of Gasmata on New Britain, that lasted from midnight until 0021. They were back at Milne Bay by 1300 on 30 November.

In mid December the Ralph Talbot covered the landings at Kiriwina in the Trobriands.

For the attack on Cape Gloucester on 26 December the Ralph Talbot formed part of TF 74, commandeered by the British Rear Admiral Victor Crutchley. She was part of TG 74.1, with the Australian cruisers Australia and Shropshire, the Australian destroyers Arunta and Warramunga and the Helm (DD-388).


On 1 January 1944 the Ralph Talbot put to sea with TF 76 to take part in the preinvasion bombardment of Saidor on New Guinea, and then supporting the  landings themselves. She was then used to escort reinforcements heading to Saidor and Cape Gloucester.

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. However the Ralph Talbot was then sent back to the United States for an overhaul.

This was completed by 19 May when she was photographed in San Francisco Bay. She had been painted in camouflage scheme Measure 33 Design 1d.

In mid-May she sailed for Pearl Harbor, and in mid June for Eniwetok. She then continued on to Garapan on Saipan, arriving on 5 July, just in time to take part in the last few days of the battle. She provided gunfire support and evacuated casualties.

On 7 July she began a sell of escort duties between the combat zone in the Marianas, and the US bases in the Marshalls. She was back at Saipan on 25 July, and provided fire support and harassing fire for the troops fighting on Tinian on 27 July.

After another spell of escort duty she joined TF 38.4 at Eniwotok, and on 28 August sortied to take part in strikes against the Volcano and Bonin Islands (31 August-2 September), Yap (7-8 September and the Palaus (10-19 September). The force then returned to Manus.

In early October the force carried out a series of raids on Okinawa, Luzon and Formosa. On 14-10 October the targets were on Luzon again, then on 20 October the force supported the landings on Leyte. During the Battle of Leyte Gulf the Ralph Talbot’s group took part in the dash north to attack the Japanese carriers at the battle of Cape Engano. On 31 October her force retired to Ulithi.

On 16 November she was detached from the fast carriers and on the following day she rejoined the 7th Fleet. From then until 27 November she supported the escort carriers of TG 77.4 as they patrolled in Leyte Gulf. She then went to Kossol Roads in northern Palau.

On 12 December she returned to Leyte Gulf as part of the escort for the escort carriers and supported them as they moved into the Sulu Sea to support landings on Mindoro. The landings began on 15 December and although there was limited resistance on the island, the fleet came under heavy air attack. The Ralph Talbot claimed one Jill shot down.


On 1 January 1945 the Ralph Talbot departed left the Kossol Roads as part of the escort carrier group allocated to the landings at Lingayen Gulf on Luzon. On the way the force was attacked by kamikazes, and on 4 January the Ommaney Bay (CVE-79) was struck. On 5 January the Ralph Talbot rescued a crewman who had been blown overboard the Helm by a kamikaze attack.

On 6 January the fleet reached Lingayen Gulf, where it came under heavy air attack. The destroyer escort USS Stafford (DE-411) was holed on her starboard side and set on fire. Her crew were transferred to the Ulvert M. Moore (DE-442), which was then given the task of helping protect her. Later in the day the Ralph Talbot was ordered to replace her, taking over at 1849. The Stafford’s crew were also transferred across to the destroyer.

The Ralph Talbot remained off Lingayen Gulf as part of the screen for the carriers until 17 January. She then returned to Ulithi, arriving on 23 January.

In February the Ralph Talbot was reassigned to the 5th Fleet. She moved to Saipan, then escorted a convoy of transports heading to Iwo Jima. She spent 16-27 February patrolling off Iwo Jima, before returning to Saipan. She was back at Ulithi on 5 March, and remained there for nearly two months.

On 20 April the Ralph Talbot left Ulithi as part of the escort of convoy UOK 2, which contained a refrigerated store ship, three cargo ships, a net-laying ship, two flotilla flagships, one LCT, one LCS(L), one degaussing vessel and five freighters, protected by two destroyers, one destroyer escort and one high speed transport. On 24 April the Ralph Talbot left the convoy to investigate a possible submarine contact, returning later on the same day. The convoy reached Hagushi on Okinawa on 26 April.

At Okinawa she joined TG 51.5 and began anti-aircraft patrols. Just after 2200 on 27 April she was attacked by two Japanese kamikaze fighters. One missed but the second hit on her starboard side aft, causing flooding. This was soon under control, and within a few minutes PCE-852 had brought a medical officer and seven corpsmen on board. The flooding was soon under control, and she returned to Kerama Retto for repairs.

These were completed by 20 May when she departed for Okinawa to rejoin the anti-aircraft screen at Hagushi. On 26 May she moved to Nakagusuku Wan, before returning to Kerama Retto again where she joined the screen of the escort carriers. On 2 June she escorted the Wake Island from Okinawa to Kerama Retto for replenishment.

After a month operating with the carriers she moved to Leyte, then on the Saipan. For the rest of the war she operated on escort duty between the Marianas and Ryukyus.

On 2 August the Ralph Talbot and Madison were ordered to join the search effort for survivors of the Indianopolis (CA-35), which had been sunk on 30 July. They reached the scene early on 3 August. The Ralph Talbot took part in the search until the afternoon of 5 August and picked up 24 survivors.

On 13 August the Ralph Talbot, Helm, Claxton (DD-571) Lunga Point (CVE-94) and Makin Island (CVE-93) formed TU 95.9.1 at Buckner Bay, and departed for Ulithi. They were still on their way when news of the Japanese surrender reached them.

On 1 September the Ralph Talbot escorted the Portland (CA-33) from Guam to Truk, and on 2 September the Japanese garrison officially surrendered onboard the cruiser. The Ralph Talbot then departed for Japan, and spent the rest of September and most of October operating around southern Japan and Okinawa.

The Ralph Talbot departed for the United States on 29 October. In May 1946 she was allocated to Task Force 1, and became a target during the atomic bomb tests at Bikini Atoll, Operation Crossroads. Although she wasn’t sunk during the tests, she was badly contaminated. She was decommissioned at Kwajalein on 29 August 1946 and sunk in deep water off the atoll on 8 March 1948.

Ralph Talbot earned 12 battle stars during World War II, for Pearl Harbor, the Pacific Raids of 1942, the invasion of Guadalcanal, New Georgia, the Bismarck Archipelago, Eastern New Guinea, the Marianas, Western Caroline Islands, Leyte, Luzon, Iwo Jima and Okinawa.

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

Armour - belt


 - deck



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


14 October 1937


8 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 (pending), USS Ralph Talbot (DD-390),

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