USS Sterett (DD-407)

USS Sterett (DD-407) was a Benham class destroyer that served in the Pacific from 1940 to June 1941, then moved to the Atlantic to join the Neutrality Patrol. She operated in the Atlantic early in 1942 then joined the British Home Fleet for training, before supporting the carrier Wasp's second run to Malta. In June she moved to the Pacific, where she spent the next year and a half operating in the Solomon Islands. She supported the invasion of Guadalcanal, fought at the naval battle of Guadalcanal, where she suffered heavy damage. She returned to the war zone in March 1943 and fought at the battle of Vella Gulf (August 1943). Finally she supported the invasion of Bougainville. In 1944 she supported the invasion of the Marshalls and the Marianas, and was on the edge of the battle of the Philippine Sea. In December she briefly joined the campaign in the Philippines. 1945 began with a spell of escort duty in the Solomons. She then took part in the invasion of Okinawa, where on 9 April she was hit by a kamikaze. Although she was repaired by June, she didn't return to the war zone and was decommissioned in November 1945.

USS Sterett (DD-407) being launched, 1938 USS Sterett (DD-407) being launched, 1938

The Sterett was named after Andrew Sterett, who served in the US Navy during the Quasi-War with France and the war with Tripoli.

The Sterett was laid down at the Charleston Navy Yard on 2 December 1936, launched on 27 October 1938 and commissioned on 15 August 1939. Her shakedown cruise didn’t start until 28 October when she departed for the Gulf of Mexico along with the Mustin (DD-413) and Hughes (DD-410). During the cruise she visited Vera Cruz, Cristobal, Mobile, and Guantanamo Bay before returning to Charleston on 20 December. A post-shakedown overhaul and trials took until 4 May 1940 when she left to Guantanamo Bay where she met up with the Hammann (DD-412). The two destroyers then departed for San Diego, arriving on 23 May. The Sterett was assigned to Destroyer Division 15.

For the next month the Sterett split her time between acting as a plane guard for the Enterprise (CV-6) and training.

On 24 June the Sterett was one of six destroyers that left the west coast to escort the Enterprise to Pearl Harbor, arriving on 2 July. The Sterett was based at Pearl Harbor for the next ten month, where she performed a mix of patrol duties and exercises.

1941

On 19 March 1941 the Farragut collided with the Aylwin towards the end of night exercises off Pearl Harbor, nearly severing the Aylwin’s bow and triggering a massive fire. The Sterett was one of the ships that provided fire parties, and the flames were under control by 0140 on 20 March.

In mid May 1941 the Sterett was in the screen of the Mississippi (BB-11) and Savannah (CL-42) when they left Pearl Harbor, officially for local exercises but actually to join Admiral King’s fleet in the Atlantic. They passed through the Panana Canama on 2-3 June and reached Guantanama Bay on 5 June. She reached Norfolk on 28 June.

On 17 August the Sterret, Lang and Wilson joined up off the Virginia Capes. They arrived at Casco Bay on 19 August, and carried out exercises there until the Wilson and Lang departed for Bermuda in early September.

In mid November 1941 she served as a plane guard while Squadron Eight (VT-8) carried out its carrier qualifications on USS Long Island (AVG-1).

The American entry into the war had the potential to alter the status of the Vichy warships interned at Martinique. In order to make sure that they didn’t cause any trouble (and because of a false report that the armed merchant cruiser Barfleur had got underway to put to sea), the Sterret joined a task force led by the Wasp (CV-7) and Brooklyn which left Bermuda to vist Martinique (10-15 December). The French agreed to remain neutral, and the task force was soon able to return to Bermuda.

On 22 December the Sterett and Stack (DD-406) left Bermuda to escort the Wasp and Long Island (AVG-1) to Norfolk, arriving on 24 December.

1942

The Sterett operated off the US east coast for the first few months of 1942. In mid-January she departed from Argentia as part of Task Force 15, which escorted a convoy half way across the Atlantic before handing it over to two British destroyers on 23 January 1942. She then diverted to Iceland, arriving at Hvalfjordur on 26 January.

She returned to New York on 9 February. On 15 February she put to sea to meet the Queen Mary off Boston and escort her into the harbour. She then carried out two trips between Boston and Casco Bay.

On 26 March the Sterett left Casco Bay with TF 39 (Washington (BB-56), Wasp, two cruisers and six destroyers) to work with the British Home Fleet at Scapa Flow. On the first day out the fleet’s commanding officer, Rear Admiral John W. Wilcox, was lost overboard, possibly after suffering from a heart attack. The fleet reached Scapa Flow under a new commander on 4 April.

The Sterett remained at Scapa Flow training with the British fleet while the Wasp made her first run to the Mediterranean to get Spitfires to Malta. She joined the Wasp for her second supply run to Malta (29 April-15 May) and then returned to Scapa Flow before departed to the US. On 26 May she was photographed in a two-tone camouflage pattern made up of irregular patches, probably measure 12.  On the following day the task force reached Norfolk.

The Sterett’s next move took her to the Pacific. On 5 June she departed for San Diego, arriving on 19 June. She then left San Diego on 1 July as part of Task Force 18, before joining the South Pacific Amphibious Expeditionary Force at Fiji.

On 1 August the Sterett put to sea with the invasion fleet heading for Guadalcanal. When the fleet reached Guadalcanal she was part of the screen of the Wasp, supporting the initial landings and avoiding a Japanese air raid. She then supported the Wasp as she guarded the supply lines to Tulagi for three days. The Sterett was then sent to screen the Long Island as she launched thirty-one aircraft which were to fly onto the Marine airfield on Guadalcanal. The Sterett then returned to the Wasp, screening her until her division was detached on 10 September (five days before the Wasp was sunk).

From mid-September to mid-October she escorted convoys to the Solomons and within the island group. She was then used to escort the Bellatrix (AK-20) and Betelgeuse (AK-28) to Espiritu Santo, then the Betelgeuse on to Noumea. She then escorted the transports McCawley (AP-10) and Zeilen (AP-9) to Guadalcanal carrying reinforcements and equipment. She then returned to the New Hebrides.

She put to sea on 31 October to escort more reinforcements to Guadalcanal. This force reached Aola Bay on 4 November, and the Sterett covered the landings before joining the San Francisco (CA-38) and Helena (CL-50) to bombard the Japanese position near Koli Point. After two days she returned to Espiritu Santo, from where she escorted another convoy to Lunga Point, Guadalcanal. She then guarded the transports as they unloaded their troops on 12 November, helping to fight off a sizable Japanese air attack, claiming four victories.

On the evening of 12 November the Sterett joined a combined force of cruisers and destroyers under Rear Admiral Callaghan, which was sent to try and intercept a Japanese force under Vice Admiral Hiroaki Abe (naval battle of Guadalcanal). The two forces clased early on 13 November near Savo Island, and the Sterett found herself in the middle of a confused melee. Admiral Callaghan ordered the odd ships in his column to fire to starboard, and the Sterett fired on a Japanese cruiser (possibly the Nagara). This cruiser came under fire from several American ships and was destroyed by an explosion. The Sterett  came under fire from the battleship Hiei but the destroyer performed surprisingly well, hitting the Hiei with two torpedoes and her 5in fire. A Japanese destroyer than appeared in front of the Sterett, which hit her with two torpedoes, sinking her quickly.

During the battle the Sterett suffered eleven direct hits including three from 14in battleship shells. Her aft guns and starboard torpedo tubes were knocked out, and she had fired all of her torpedoes. Her steering was damaged, and there was a fire on her aft deck. At 0230 she began to withdraw from the battle area, although had trouble keeping up with the rest of the force. During the action she lost 29 dead and 22 wounded.

Later on 13 November the Sterett depth charged a sonar contact, although without any success. She then departed for Espiritu Santo for repairs.

The Sterret reached Espiritu Santo on 14 November where she underwent emergency repairs. On 24 November she departed from Espiritu Santo heading for Pearl Harbor, (with San Francisco (CA-38), Conyngham (DD-371), and Mahan). This flotilla of damaged ships reached Pearl Harbor on 4 December, where some of them stayed for repairs. However the Sterett continued on to San Francisco, where she entered the Mare Island Naval Shipyard for two months of repairs.

1943

On 6 February 1943 she was photographed at Mare Island. Amongst the changes shown were new twin 40mm anti-aircraft mounts on the aft deckhouse, depth charge racks on either side of the aft deckhouse, new radar on her mast, and a new searchlight just behind the funnel.

On 10 February the Sterett and Nassau (CVE-16) left San Francisco heading for Pearl Harbor, and then Espiritu Santo, arriving on 8 March. The Sterett then returned to the Solomon Islands, performing a mix of convoy escorts and patrols.

She was at Guadalcanal when the Japanese launched Operation I of 7 April 1943, Admiral Yamamoto’s attempt to cripple the American fleet with massive air attacks. During this attack the destroyer Aeron Ward (DD-483), corvette HMNZS Moa and oiler Kanawha (AO-1) were sunk. The operation continued for several more days with large scale attacks on other Allied anchorages, but only managed to sink another two merchant ships.

On 8 April the Sterett, Ward, Taylor (DD-468) and Farenholt (DD-491) left Guadalcanal to escort five merchant ships back to Espiritu Santo, arriving on 10 April.

On the night of 6-7 August the Sterett was part of a force of six destroyers commanderd by Commander Frederick Moosbrugger, which was sent into Vella Gulf to intercept a force of Japanese destroyers that was carrying reinforcements for Kolombangara. The resulting battle of Vella Gulf was one of the most successful American night attacks of the campaign, and saw three of the four Japanese destroyers sunk in the initial attack. The Shigure escaped, but none of the reinforcements reached Kolombangara,

For the rest of August and September the Sterett patrolled in the Solomons. She then payed a visit to Australia, arriving at Sydney on 8 October with the Cleveland (CL-55) before returning to Espiritu Santo on 24 October.

At the start of November the Sterett escorted the assault force heading to Bougainville in the Solomons. She was then used to screen the carriers as they attacked Rabaul from 5-11 November.

For the rest of August and throughout September, Sterett occupied herself with patrols in the Solomons. On 8 October, she arrived in Sydney, Australia, escorting Cleveland (CL-55). The two warships reached Espiritu Santo on the 24th. On 27 November she was photographed from the Saratoga (CV-3) with a load of aircraft drop tanks carried on her fantail.

On 9 December she screened the carriers as they raided Naura Island. She then withdrew to the New Hebrides where she remained until 27 December. She briefly returned to the Solomons for the last three days of the year.

1944

At the start of 1944 she escorted the Alabama (BB-60) to Pearl Harbor. She then moved to the Ellice Islands, reaching Funafuti on 21 January. On 23 January she put to sea as part of the screen for the Bunker Hill (CV-17) and Monterey (CVL-26), supporting them as they carried out raids in the Marshalls and Marianas until 7 March.

Early on 29 January the North Carolina, Sterett and Lang were detached from the carriers and ordered to carry out intermittent shelling of Roi on the night of D minus 2 and during D minus 1. The battleship opened fire on Roi at 1832 on 29 January, and the Sterett at 1845, firing at Roi airfield. During the night she fired 112 rounds of 5in ammo, although her main task was to provide an anti-submarine screen for the North Carolina.

On 30 January the North Carolina was joined by the South Dakota and Alabama. The Sterett screened them as they approached the island, then from about 11am fired 64 rounds at gun positions on Namur. In the early afternoon she fired at targets on the smaller islands of Ennumennet and Ennugarret then at Namur, where she triggered a large explosion. At 1342 she took up a position screening ahead of the battleships and opened fire on Roi, firing her last salvo at 1543.

On 12 February she screened the carriers as they raided Truk. On 17 February the targets were Tinian and Saipan. The Sterett then joined the invasion force heading for Emirau.

In the aftermath of the invasions she returned to the United States, visiting Purvis Bay, Florida Island, on 4 April and Efate on 7 April. On the stage from Efate to Pearl Harbor (7 April-16 April) she sailed with TU 34.9.5, built around the Tennessee (BB-43) and Mississippi. She paused at Pearl Harbor on 16-17 April, before reaching Puget Sound Navy Yard on 29 April.

After a brief period of yard work from 24-30 April she departed for San Francisco on 3 May, then departed for Pearl Harbor on 5 May, arriving on 10 May.

On 24 May she left Pearl Harbor as part of TG 12.1 (built around the North Carolina (BB-55) and Washington (BB-56), with two cruisers, one mine layer and six destroyers). This force arrived at Majuro on 30 May.

On 6 June she left Majuro as part of TF 58 to take part in the invasion of the Marianas. From 11-25 June she supported the carriers as they raided Saipan, Iwo Jima, Guam, and Rota Islands. On 20 June the Sterett, Land and Wislon were detached from the carriers to carry out an anti-shipping sweep and harassment mission around Guam and Rota. From 25 June-7 July she operated around Guam and Rota, carrying out patrols and bombarding Guam. She then screened the carriers as they attacked Yap, Palau and UIithi, before departed for Puget Sound, arriving on 20 August.

After another overhaul she departed for Hawaii on 13 October. On 19 November she left Oahu as part of TU 16.8.5, heading for Seeadler Harbour at Manus. In mid-December she reached Leyte Gulf, where she carried out a mix of patrols and convoy escort duties. 

On 26 December the Sterett left for Mindoro escorting a supply convoy. This force was hit by kamikaze attackers on 28 December, two of which hit merchantmen.

1945

On 1 January 1945 the Sterett returned to San Pedro Bay. She then spent the first three months of 1945 operating on patrol and convoy duties in the Solomons.

Kamikaze Damage to USS Sterett (DD-407) Kamikaze Damage to USS Sterett (DD-407)

From 1 April 1945 she served as a radar picket ship off Okinawa, a key part of the defence against the kamikaze. The radar picket ships were the most vulnerable target. On 6 April the Sterett escorted the Bennett (DD-473) to Zampa Misaki after she had been hit by a kamikaze.

On 9 April the Sterett was targeted by three kamikaze, one of which hit her. A large hole was punched through her side, luckily just above the waterline. She lost all electrical power, steering and power to guns and directors, but her 20mm and 40mm guns were still active, and she was able to shoot down a fourth attacker. Once the attack had been driven off temporary repairs were carried out and she moved to Kerama Retto for emergency repairs, escorted by the Jeffers (DMS-27) to provide more effective AA firepower.

After emergency repairs at Kerama Retto the Sterett formed part of the screen for TU 53.7.1 as it moved to Ulithi. She then departed for Pearl Harbor with the Rail (DE-304). She paused at Pearl Harbor from 1-10 May to more repairs, before leaving for Bremerton, Washington for full repairs.

The Sterett spent June, July and most of August operating along the US West Coast. On 21 August she departed for Pearl Harbor, arriving on 28 August. She spent the next month at Pearl Harbor training in shore bombardment and anti-aircraft gunnery. However the end of the war meant that these skills would no longer be needed. On 25 September she left Pearl Harbor with the Mississippi (BB-41), North Carolina (BB-55), and Enterprise (CV-6) heading east. She passed through the Panama Canal on 8-9 October and reached New York on 17 October  (where she took part in the Navy Day celebrations)

She was decommissioned at New York on 2 November 1945, struck off the Navy List on 25 February 1947 and sold for scrap on 10 August 1947.

Sterett (DD-407) earned thirteen battle stars, for the reinforcement of Malta, landings on Guadalcanal, defence of Guadalcanal, naval battle of Guadalcanal, consolidation of the Solomons, New Georgia, Treasury-Bougainville, Gilberts, Marshals, Pacific Raids of 1944, Marianas, Luzon and Okinawa as well as the Philippine Republic Presidential Unit Citation for World War II service.

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.
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How to cite this article: Rickard, J (8 November 2022), USS Sterett (DD-407) , http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/weapons_USS_Sterett_DD407.html

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