An initial twenty-four ships of the Benson-class were contracted for in Fiscal Year 1938 by the United States Navy (USN) with design/construction of the first eight spread between Bethlehem Shipbuilding (8), Gibbs & Cox/Bath Iron Works (2). At this time, Bethlehem petitioned the USN to complete their lot with simpler machinery, promising no loss to efficiency in their design, while the remaining warships would rely on the original machinery fit. This gave rise to the "Benson-Livermore-class" (USS Livermroe being one of the ships-in-class). However, Bath Iron Works added USS Gleaves and USS Niblack to the USN lot and, since USS Gleaves was completed before USS Livermore, "Benson-Gleaves-class" was used ahead of the Benson-Livermore-class name.
In any case, both were related to the Benson-class destroyer initiative (as subclasses) and the Gleaves-class produced sixty-six total warships for its part in naval history. These were built from 1938 to 1943 and in commission from 1940 until 1956, ultimately operated by the USN, the Hellenic Navy (Greece), the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF), the Marina Militare (Italy), the Republic of China Navy (Taiwan), and Turkish Naval Forces at various times. Of the sixty-six completed, fourteen were ultimately lost in service with fifty-two seeing decommissioning in the post-World War 2 world.
The Gleaves-class "technically" succeeded the Benson-class (differentiated by the former's rounded smoke stacks as opposed to the latter's slab-sided style) but were themselves succeeded by the incoming wartime "Fletcher-class" (175 ships). As such, Gleaves-class ships were something of an interim, or bridge, design before the Fletcher-class could be had in useful numbers.
The new ships were improvements over the preceding Sims-class which were built from 1937-1940, entered commissioned service in 1939, and saw twelve warships built to the standard. Changes included a revision of the machinery arrangement for improved survivability from torpedo blasts - and these changes, in turn, forced the new design to carry two smoke stacks instead of the Sims's one. Heavier at 1,630 ton displacement under standard loads (2,400 ton displacement under full loads), the warships proved successful in their own right.
USS Gleaves was given a traditional profile for the period: the forecastle contained two turreted main guns with the second stepped onto the hull superstructure containing the bridge section and main mast. Aft of the bridge section were two smoke funnels seated in line. Additional turrets were positioned aft towards the stern. Power was from 4 x Boiler units feeding 2 x Turbines outputting 50,000 horsepower to 2 x Shafts. This gave the vessel a maximum speed of over 37 knots and a range out to 7,500 miles. Aboard was a crew of 276 personnel that included sixteen officers.
Dimensions included a length of 348.2 feet, a beam of 636 feet, and a draught of 13.1 feet.
All told, the warship carried 5 x 5" (127mm) Dual-Purpose (DP) turreted main guns, tow fore and three aft. There were 10 x 21" (533mm) torpedo tubes (2 x Quintuple mountings) and 2 x Depth charge racks installed. For close-in work, the ship carried up to 6 x 0.50 caliber heavy machine guns. This gave Gleaves good firepower against air, surface, and undersea threats as they arose - making her a true "multi-purpose" destroyer for the time.
USS Gleaves (DD-423) was contracted to Bath Iron Works and saw her keel laid down on May 16th, 1938. She was launched to sea on December 9th, 1939, and formally commissioned on June 14th, 1940. As the United States had not yet entered World War 2 (1939-1945), the warship remained stateside near the Atlantic seaboard and in Caribbean waters during her early-going. Her first war-related actions were in convoy and patrols duties across the Atlantic and near Icelandic waters in support of the Allies.
By the time the war had fully enveloped U.S. attention, Gleaves was operating out to points near the North African coast and Ireland with the one primary threat being German attack submarines (U-boats). No fewer than thirteen convoys involved USS Gleaves with nine coming after the American declaration of war.
USS Gleaves then took part in the Allied landings at Sicily and Anzio while supporting amphibious, convoy, and anti-submarine operations in the Mediterranean Theater. Several direct attempts by the enemy, under the cover of night, were made against her but the mighty little warship managed to survive and either sink or drive off her attackers. She managed an in-theater career until February of 1945, at which point she was recalled stateside for refit. Once the work was completed, she was tasked with training in Caribbean waters.
With the European war over in May of 1945, USS Gleaves made it to Hawaii with Tokyo as the next prize. However, the War in the Pacific was ended with the Japanese surrender by September of that year, bringing about an end to the war in full. That November, she served in getting medicine to USS Adabelle Lykes after a smallpox outbreak was discovered.
Like other warships of the immediate post-war period, Gleaves took on veterans for the trip home under "Operation Magic Carper". She brought home at least 300 personnel to Seattle, Washington in December of 1945. From there, it was a stop to San Francisco waters before ending her voyage along the American East Coast in Charleston, South Carolina for January of 1946.
End of the Road
The warship was officially decommissioned on May 8th, 1946 and placed in reserve status in Philadelphia waters. She was then relocated to Orange, Texas. Her name was stricken from the Naval Register on November 1st, 1969 and her stripped hulk was sold for scrapping on June 29th, 1972.