USS Laffey (DD-459) Destroyer Warship
Commissioned in 1942, USS Laffey DD-459 led a short wartime service life as she was sunk by enemy action before the end of the year.
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Benson-class destroyers were built for the United States Navy from 1938 until 1943 and the family consisted of 30 total vessels which included USS Laffey (DD-459) - not to be confused with USS Laffey (DD-724) which appeared some years later. USS Laffey (DD-459) was laid down on January 13th, 1941 by Bethlehem Shipbuilding Corporation of San Francisco, California and launched on October 31st, 1941 - just months before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii (which thrust the United States into World War 2). Commissioned on March 31st, 1942, she was to become a casualty of the war before the end of the year.
As built, USS Laffey displaced 1,620 tons under full load and held a length of 347.9 feet, a beam of 36 feet and a draught nearing 17.8 feet. Installed power consisted of 4 x Babcock & Wilcox boilers feeding 2 x Bethlehem Steel geared steam turbines developing 50,000 horsepower to 2 x shafts. Maximum speed reach 37.5 knots with ranges out to 7,500 miles.
Her profile incorporated an integrated bridge and main mast to the forward superstructure. Aft of this were the two smoke funnels (inline) and shorter superstructure sections. Her bow was noticeably raised when compared to her aft portions with the hull lines stepped down towards the rear of the ship. Her total crew complement numbered 208 officers and enlisted personnel - though she carried 247 into her final battle.
The armament suite was led by 4 x 5" (127mm) /38 caliber Dual-Purpose (DP) guns fitted to armored turrets (single-gunned emplacements, two forward and three aft . 5 x 20mm Oerlikon Anti-Aircraft (AA) guns handled close-ranged aerial threats and 3 x 21" (530mm) torpedo tubes countered surface ship threats. 5 x depth charge projectors were installed for Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) as were 2 x depth charge tracks.
Destroyers were originally developed to counter the threat posed by torpedo boats against capital ships in the early 1900s. This had them named as "Torpedo Boat Destroyers" though, by the time of World War 2, the types were simply recognized as "Destroyers". Fast, relatively agile and modestly armed, the ships could operate independently of the fleet in deep waters or as part of a major fighting sea force.
Laffey conducted her "shakedown" off the American West Coast as World War 2 raged on. She made it to Efate before the end of August 1942 and joined up with Task Force 18 (TF18) the following month. Her rescue services were called into action with the sinking of USS Wasp. This was followed by participation with TF64 before the end of September.
She then took part in the Battle of Cape Esperance (Second Battle of Savo Island) from October 11th to the 12th. Her 5" inch guns were brought to bear on the enemy and she scored hits against the enemy cruiser IJN Aoba - damaging the vessel. She escorted transports in November and followed this with the Battle of Guadalcanal, managing damage to the battleship IJN Hiei. The battle closed in on the small ship warship at which point she took her own damage from projectiles and a torpedo which rendered her immobile. With the order given to abandon ship, the vessel was all but lost. However, an internal explosion worsened the situation and claimed the lives of dozens of her crew. The resulting damage was great enough to take the vessel and what remained of her crew still aboard down in short order. In the battle, 59 of her crew perished and 116 were left wounded.
For her service she and her crews were awarded three Battle Stars as well as the Navy Presidential Unit Citation.
The Laffey name was resurrected once more through USS Laffey (DD-724) (detailed elsewhere on this site) which was commissioned for service in 1944 and earned the title of "The Ship That Would Not Die". This incarnation managed to survive the rest of the war and served into the Cold War decades before being decommissioned and saved as a floating museum at Patriot's Point, South Carolina.