A Tin Can Sailors
Destroyer History


USS MAYO, a sturdy, hard-hitting destroyer of the BENSON Class of 1937-1939, made her reputation by surviving an ordeal, which would probably have sunk many another vessel. She struck a German mine off the Anzio beachhead, and was towed 5,000 miles to New York for permanent repairs. The Atlantic crossing was made during March, the month which usually finds the Atlantic Ocean behaving at its worst.

USS MAYO was constructed by the Bethlehem Shipbuilding Corporation, Fall River, Massachusetts. Her keel was laid on 16 May 1938 and she was launched on 26 March 1940. Mrs. C. G. Mayo, daughter-in-law of Admiral Henry Thomas Mayo, USN, the ship’s namesake, served as sponsor.

USS MAYO (DD-422) was named in honor of Admiral Henry Thomas Mayo, USN. Admiral Mayo served as Commander-In-Chief, Atlantic Fleet during World War I.

USS MAYO was commissioned on 18 September 1940 with Commander Irving T. Duke, USN, as her first commanding officer. Prior to the outbreak of the war she operated as part of the neutrality patrol and as convoy escort for North Atlantic convoys, including the first Marine troops that were sent to Iceland on 7 July 1941. In August 1941 she was present at the signing of the Atlantic Charter.

Upon the outbreak of war on 7 December 1941, USS MAYO continued duty as escort for convoys enroute to the British Island and eventually to North Africa. While escorting USS WAKEFIELD to the United Kingdom in September 1942. A fire broke out aboard the passenger-laden WAKEFIELD. USS MAYO maneuvered alongside with a transport ship and a cruiser. The three vessels took almost 1,000 passengers from the burning ship. Later the fire burned out and a fire-fighting party went back aboard and succeeded in bringing the flames under control. USS WAKEFIELD was then towed back to the USA for repairs.

On 21 August 1943, MAYO entered the Mediterranean and participated in the Salerno Landings the following month. She served as a fire support ship, and her commanding officer was awarded the Legion of Merit for the ship’s fine performance of duty. While participating in those landings, the British hospital ship NEWFOUNDLAND was bombed by German aircraft on 13 September 1943. USS MAYO and USS PLUNKETT sped to the scene to aid and not until a salvage-tug arrived and pronounced the hospital ship beyond saving, did they withdraw. All survivors had been transferred to a nearby hospital and transport ships prior to the arrival of the two U.S. ships and as the NEWFOUNDLAND was pronounced not worth saving. Both MAYO and PLUNKETT immediately withdrew to their battle stations in anticipation of another air raid.

USS MAYO continued escort duty in the Mediterranean as convoy escort to bases in the forward area until January 1944. In January she participated in the Anzio-Nettuno landings as fire support ship. On 24 January 1944, USS MAYO struck a mine, which exploded amidships, flooding the after engine and fire room. The explosion broke her keel, killed several men, blew a hole in her side about 12 by 20 feet, wounded 23 men and knocked out both drive shafts, causing a loss of speed.

A British tug towed the stricken ship to Naples where a temporary patch was placed over the hole in her side. USS HOPI, a sea-going tug, took MAYO in low then and set out for Oran, then to Casablanca. There she was met by the USS CHEROKEE, a seagoing tug out of Bermuda, and the long voyage back to America was begun.

On 17 March, CHEROKEE stood out with MAYO in tow enroute to New York. March is the worst month of the year for dirty weather in the Atlantic and MAYO rolled as much as fifty-five degrees. Yet the rugged destroyer withstood the high seas, and the 5,000-mile voyage turned out to be not only a success, but one of the longest towing jobs of the entire war. The Navy Yard at Brooklyn, New York set to work in 24-hour shifts upon MAYO’s arrival, and by 18 August 1944, all repairs to the battle damage were completed.

USS MAYO returned to duty with about 70 of her original crew after a month’s shakedown and training in the Casco Bay, Maine area. Upon completion of the shakedown period, a voyage was made to Trinidad with USS SAVANNAH. MAYO returned to the U.S. early in October with USS WILKES BARRE, and at the end of October, was designated as escort group flagship assigned to convoy groups in fast convoys from New York to the United Kingdom. That duty continued until April 1945, at which time MAYO was ordered to the Pacific for duty.

USS MAYO sailed for San Diego via the Panama Canal. She transited the Canal in May and sailed on for San Diego. On 22 May she departed San Diego enroute to Pearl Harbor. At Pearl Harbor she received two weeks of intensive gunnery training prior to sailing for Leyte Gulf with a fast carrier task group on 13 June 1945. On 20 June the carriers made an air strike at Wake Island and on 28 June MAYO arrived at the Philippine Islands. There she was ordered to report to Ulithi for convoy escort duty. She arrived on 2 July and continued escort and patrol duty with voyages from Ulithi to Okinawa until Japan surrendered on 2 September 1945.

Following Japan’s surrender, USS MAYO participated in the occupation of Honshu, escorting occupation troops into Tokyo Bay. That duty terminated for MAYO on 5 November 1945 when she sailed for the United States. She arrived at San Diego on 21 November and sailed for the Panama Canal on the 24th. Transiting the Canal on 2 December, MAYO steamed to Charleston, South Carolina, arriving on 7 December 1945.

Decommissioning availability was started immediately as USS MAYO was ordered placed out of commission in reserve as part of the Atlantic Reserve Fleet.

USS MAYO (DD-422) earned two Battle Stars on the European-African-Middle Eastern Area Service Medal for participating in the following operations:

1 Star/Salerno Landing - 9-21 September 1943

1 Star/ West Coast of Italy Operations - 1944

Anzio-Nettuno Advanced Landings - 22-24 January 1944

USS MAYO also earned the Navy Occupation Service Medal, Pacific for the periods from 2 to 8 September 1945 and from 4 October to 6 November 1945.


From The Tin Can Sailor, March 1979

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