Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships
The second Sterett (DD-407) was laid down on 2 December 1936 at the
Charleston Navy Yard; launched on 27 October 1938, sponsored by Mrs. Camilla
Ridgely Simpson, and commissioned on 15 August 1939, Lt. Comdr. Atherton
Macondray in command.
Sterett departed Charleston on 28 October 1939 in company with two other
newly-commissioned destroyers, Mustin (DD-413) and Hughes (DD-410), for
shakedown in the Gulf of Mexico. She visited Vera Cruz, Cristobal, Mobile,
and Guantanamo Bay before returning to Charleston on 20 December. She
underwent post-shakedown overhaul and trials at Charleston until departing on
4 May 1940. Assigned to Destroyer Division 15, Sterett rendezvoused with
Hammann (DD-412) at Guantanamo Bay, and the two destroyers steamed for San
Diego, via the Panama Canal. They arrived in San Diego on 23 May; and, for a
month, Sterett divided her time between training and planeguarding Enterprise
(CV-6). On 24 June, she sailed for Hawaii with Enterprise and five other
destroyers, and arrived at Pearl Harbor on 2 July.
She operated out of Pearl Harbor for the next 10 months, participating in a
number of exercises and patrols. When Mississippi (BB-41) exited Pearl Harbor
on 14 May 1941, Sterett was in her screen. The warships transited the Panama
Canal and arrived at Norfolk on 28 June. Sterett next screened Long Island (
CVE-1) during the escort carrier's Bermuda shakedown cruise. Sterett
concluded 1941 engaged in neutrality patrols with Wasp (CV-7). After the
Japanese attacked the Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbor, Sterett sailed from
Bermuda with Wasp and an assortment of cruisers and destroyers to counter
possible action by Vichy French ships anchored at Martinique.
Sterett spent the early months of the war patrolling off the eastern
seaboard. In mid-January, she sailed to Argentia, Newfoundland, to meet Task
Force (TF) 15 and escort a convoy to Iceland. The convoy was transferred to
two British destroyers on 23 January 1942 and she put into HvalfJordur,
Iceland, on the 26th. Sterett returned to the United States at New York on 9
February and stood out again on the 15th to meet the liner Queen Mary off the
Boston breakwater and escort her into the harbor. After two trips between
Boston and Casco Bay, Maine, Sterett joined Wasp as part of her escort to
duty with the British Home Fleet. The task group entered Scapa Flow, Orkney
Islands, on 4 April minus its commanding officer, Rear Admiral John W.
Wilcox, who was lost overboard during the passage.
While Wasp made her first aerial reinforcement of embattled Malta, Sterett
trained with the British Fleet out of Scapa Flow. The destroyer was with Wasp
on her second run to Malta, 29 April to 15 May, and, after returning to Scapa
Flow, headed for the United States. The task group made Norfolk on 27 May
1942. On 5 June, Sterett put to sea bound for San Diego, where she arrived on
19 June. She stood out again on 1 July and, as a part of TF 18, steamed, via
Tongatabu, to the Fiji Islands. She was assimilated into Rear Adm. Richmond
K. Turner's South Pacific Amphibious Expeditionary Force and practiced
invasion techniques at Fiji until 1 August.
Sterett spent the rest of 1942 and all of 1943 supporting the Allied forces
as they struggled up the island staircase formed by the Solomons Islands and
the Bismarck Archipelago. The Solomons invasion fleet, guarded by three
carrier task groups led by Saratoga ( CV-3), Enterprise, and Wasp, arrived in
the Solomons late on 6 August. Early the next morning, the carriers
catapulted their planes into the air for strikes on enemy installations and
troop concentrations; and, afterward, the fleet softened the beaches with its
big guns. As this overture neared its end, the Marines stormed ashore at
Guadalcanal, Gavutu, Tulagi, and Tanambogo. Meanwhile, Sterett and the Wasp
carrier group zigzagged into a rain squall, successfully dodging an 18-plane
raid launched from Rabaul on New Britain.
For the next three days, the Wasp unit guarded the supply lines to Tulagi.
From there, Sterett sailed east of San Cristobal to screen Long Island while
she launched 31 Marine planes for use on Guadalcanal. Rejoining Wasp
immediately, Sterett remained with her until DesDiv 15 was detached on 10
September 1942. Five days later, the carrier, Sterett's long-standing
companion, was at the bottom of the Pacific.
For the next month, Sterett escorted convoys and reinforcements to the
Solomons and between the islands of that group, splashing at least one
Japanese bomber. Following duty escorting Bellatrinc (AK-20) and Betelgeuse
(AK-28) to Espiritu Santo in the New Hebrides and guarding the latter all the
way to Noumea, New Caledonia, she returned to Guadalcanal accompanying two
transports, McCawley (AP-10) and Zeilen (AP-9), loaded with troops and
equipment. While the transports unloaded, Sterett fired on enemy bombers and
shore batteries harassing Henderson Field on Guadalcanal.
The destroyer returned to the New Hebrides and, after refueling, put to sea n
31 October to protect still more reinforcements to Guadalcanal. The convoy
arrived at Aola Bay early on 4 November. Sterett covered the establishment of
the beachhead and later joined San Francisco (CA-38) and Helena (CA-75) in a
highly successful shore bombardment. Two days later, she retired to Espiritu
There, she met another convoy and escorted it to Lunga Point, Guadalcanal. As
the troops were landing on the morning of the 12th, Sterett took up station
to meet expected air raids. Just after noon, she received word that a large
flock of Japanese planes had been spotted by a coastwatcher on Buin. In less
than an hour, the attackers swooped in low against the dark background of
Tulagi and Florida islands. Sterett directly in the line of the enemy's
approach, shot down four torpedo bombers while dodging at least three
torpedoes. By 1450, 32 of the attackers were splashed by antiaircraft fire
and American aircraft. The remainder retreated. The transports resumed their
unloading, and Sterett enjoyed relative quiet for the rest of the day.
That evening, after shepherding the transports east to safety, Sterett joined
the van of the cruiser-destroyer force under the command of Rear Admiral
Callaghan and steamed back through Lengo Channel to intercept Vice Admiral
Hiroaki Abe's raiding force. Sterett and her colleagues in the van, followed
by five cruisers and a rearguard of four more destroyers passed Lunga Point
abeam, increased speed and, upon reaching a point about three miles north of
Tassafaronga, changed course. As the warships sped toward Savo Island, their
radar screens were dotted by echoes from the enemy ships. Helena reported
first contact at 0130 on the 13th, and soon all American ships were receiving
reflections from the Japanese ships. The two forces were closing each other
at a combined speed in excess of 40 knots.
The American warships threaded their way into the enemy formation, and a
deadly crossfire immediately engulfed Sterett. At 0150, Admiral Callaghan
ordered odd ships in column to open fire to starboard and even ships to
engage the enemy to port: Sterett fired on a cruiser to starboard and, in
turn, took a terrific pounding from battleship Hiei on her port side. Soon
her first target was enveloped in a large explosion and sank, a victim of the
combined fire of the Americans.
At this point, the battle degenerated into a swirl of individual duels and
passing shots. Sterett turned now to the giant tormenting her port side, let
fly four torpedoes, and peppered her superstructure with 5-inch shells.
Though the battleship neither sank nor sustained severe damage, Sterett had
the satisfaction of scoring two torpedo hits before a third target crossed
her bow. At the appearance of an enemy more her size, Sterett tore into the
destroyer with her guns and launched two torpedoes. Before the Japanese
destroyer could fire a single shot at Sterett, she was lifted from the water
by the exploding torpedoes and rapidly settled to the floor of "Ironbottom
By this time, Sterett had undergone a brutal beating from Hiei and various
other enemy ships. Thus, at 0230, with the Japanese retiring toward Savo
Island, Sterett, her after guns and starboard torpedo tubes out of
commission, began to withdraw. She had difficulty overtaking the rest of her
force because of her damaged steering gear and the necessity to reduce speed
periodically to control the blaze on her after deck. However, by dawn, she
was back in formation on the starboard quarter of San Francisco.
Before heading for Espiritu Santo on the 13th, she delivered her parting shot
to the enemy by depth charging a sound contact, possibly the submarine which,
about an hour later, would sink Juneau (CL-52). Sterett arrived in the New
Hebrides on 14 November, underwent emergency repairs, and departed from
Espiritu Santo 10 days later. Visiting Pearl Harbor along the way, she
steamed into San Francisco Bay and entered Mare Island Naval Shipyard: where
she remained for two months. Sterett set sail from San Francisco on 10
February 1943, joined Nassau (CVE-16) at Pearl Harbor, and together they
entered Espiritu Santo on 8 March. Upon her return to the Pacific theater,
Sterett resumed her original assignment guarding convoys to the Solomons-
Bismarcks area and patrolling the area to prevent enemy reinforcements from
being moved into the fray.
On 6 August 1943, Sterett was cruising "Ironbottom Sound" in the second
division of the six-destroyer task group under Comdr. Frederick Moosbrugger.
At 1200, air reconnaissance reported an enemy force of four destroyers
delivering troops and supplies to Kolombangara via Vella Gulf. At dusk, the
six Americans passed cautiously through Gizo Strait into Vella Gulf. By
midnight, the two divisions were skirting the coast of Kolombangara about two
miles apart. Radar picked up the Japanese ships heading south at about 30
knots. One division launched eight torpedoes at the Japanese column's port
side; then Sterett's division loosed their torpedoes and opened with their
guns. Three of the four enemy destroyers took torpedo hits and received the
coup de grace from 5-inch guns. Shigure, the lone survivor, retreated at high
speed to Buin. At Vella Gulf, Sterett and her comrades accounted for three
enemy destroyers, over 1,500 sailors and soldiers, and a large portion of the
50 tons of supplies.
For the rest of August and through out 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. At the beginning of November, she accompanied the assault forces to
Bougainville, Solomon Islands; and, between 5 and 11 November, supported the
carriers while their planes bombed Japanese ships at Rabaul. She screened the
carriers who delivered the 9 December raid on Nauru Island; then withdrew to
the New Hebrides until 27 December. In the Solomons on the last three days of
1943, Sterett escorted Alabama (BB-60) to Pearl Harbor and on to the Ellice
Islands, arriving at Funafuti on 21 January 1944. Two days afterward, she put
to sea with Bunker Hill (CV-17) and Monterey.
From 29 January to 7 March 1944, Sterett operated in the Marianas and
Marshalls. On the 29th, her carriers' planes struck Roi and Namur islands of
Kwajalein Atoll. Next came the 12 February raid on Truk. Five days later,
Sterett covered the flattops during raids on Tinian and Saipan. She departed
the Marshalls for the New Hebrides, where she joined the Emirau invasion
force. Sterett stopped at Purvis Bay, Florida Island, on 4 April and visited
Efate on 7 April during her voyage from Emirau Island to the United States.
Sterett stopped at Pearl Harbor on 16 and 17 April and arrived at the Puget
Sound Navy Yard on the 29th. She underwent yard work from 24 to 30 April and
then moved down the coast on 3 May to San Francisco Bay. Forty-eight hours
later, she sailed out for Oahu and reached Pearl Harbor on the 10th.
Following 14 days of exercises in the Hawaiian Islands, she sortied with TG
12.1 for the Marshalls. At Majuro from 30 May, she exited the lagoon with TF
58 on 6 June to screen the support carriers during the invasion of the
Marianas. Sterett cruised with the carriers from 11 to 25 June as they
launched and recovered wave after wave of planes for strikes on Saipan, Iwo
Jima, Guam, and Rota Islands, periodically fending off Japanese aerial
From 25 June until 7 July, she patrolled the waters around Guam and Rota and
bombarded Guam. After covering the carriers during the sweeps over Yap,
Palau, and Ulithi, she sailed for Eniwetok en route to Puget Sound. She
stopped at Pearl Harbor from 10 to 14 August and headed on to Bremerton,
Wash., entering the Puget Sound Navy Yard on the 20th. Completing overhaul
and trials up and down the west coast she sailed west on 13 October for the
Hawaiian Islands. Sterett sortied from Oahu with TU 16.8.5 on 19 November
and, 12 days later, entered Seeadler Harbor, Manus Admiralty Islands. Two
weeks before Christmas 1944, she entered Leyte Gulf in the Philippines for
patrol and convoy duty.
On the day after Christmas, she started for Mindoro with a supply convoy. Two
days later, the Japanese attacked. Early that morning, three kamikazes dove
at Sterett's convoy. Antiaircraft fire splashed the first but the second and
third succeeded in crashing into merchantmen. Sterett endured the onslaught
of the "Divine Wind" until the task unit was dissolved on New Year's Day
1945. On that date, she returned to San Pedro Bay, claiming the destruction
of one enemy suicide plane for herself and assists in eliminating two others.
During the next three months, Sterett plied the waters of the South and
Central Pacific, primarily engaged in patrol and convoy duty in the Solomons.
13 April 1945, she was off Okinawa, taking part in the conquest of the
Ryukyus as a radar picket ship. At Okinawa, Japan hurled a storm of suicide
planes at the Navy. Particularly hard-hit were the ships on radar picket
duty. On 6 April, Sterett had to accompany her companion ship, Bennett (DD-
473), to Zampa Misaki on Okinawa after that destroyer had been hit by a
Three days later, Sterett suffered the same fate. While at picket station #4
northeast of Okinawa, five enemy planes swooped on her, LCS-36, and LCS-24.
The first was driven off and later downed, the second was splashed by the
destroyer's main battery; but the third, though battered by her barrage,
pressed home its attack and smashed into Sterett's starboard side at her
waterline. She lost all electrical power, but her 20 millimeter and 40
millimeter guns still managed to bring down the fourth attacker. The
destroyer lost steering and power to all guns and directors, her
communications were out, and her forward fuel tanks were ruptured. However,
with the fires in the mess hall under control, steering control reestablished
aft, and emergency communication lines rigged she moved off to Kerama Retto
with Jeffers (DMS-21) providing antiaircraft cover.
Following emergency repairs at Kerama Retto, she screened TU 53.7.1 to
Ulithi, and, from there, she and Rail (DE-304) sailed to Pearl Harbor. After
spending the period from 1 to 10 May at Oahu, she moved on to Bremerton,
Wash., and more extensive repairs. Through the months of June, July, and the
first three weeks of August 1945, she remained on the west coast. Then, from
21 to 28 August, Sterett steamed to Pearl Harbor. Upon her arrival, she
practiced shore bombardment and antiaircraft gunnery for a month. On 25
September, she set sail with Mississippi (BB-41), North Carolina (BB-55),and
Sterett transited the Panama Canal on 8 and 9 October and, after a three-day
stay in Coco Solo, C.Z., proceeded north. She arrived in New York on 17
October and was decommissioned there on 2 November 1945. Her name was struck
from the Navy list on 25 February 1947, and she was sold on 10 August to
Northern Metal Co. of Philadelphia for scrapping.
Sterett (DD-407) earned 12 battle stars and the Philippine Republic
Presidential Unit Citation for World War II service.