USS AULT was named for LCDR William Bowen Ault, air group
commander for USS LEXINGTON (CV-2). LCDR Ault was lost while returning
from a successful air strike against the Imperial Japanese Navy's
aircraft carrier, IJN SHOKAKU during the battle of the Coral Sea (May
USS AULT was laid down at the Kearny yard of Federal
Shipbuilding on November 15, 1943 and launched the following March. She
was commissioned two months later.
Following a shakedown cruise in the Caribbean, DD-698
was transferred to the Pacific to begin preparation for combat. She
arrived at Pearl Harbor on September 29, beginning three months of
intensive training in Hawaiian waters. On Christmas Day, 1944, DD-698,
along with her sisters of DESRON 62, joined the fast carrier strike
group Task Group 38.2.
The first role assigned to TG 38.2 was a complex one.
Not only were the carriers to attack targets on the Philippine islands
of Luzon, but they were also tasked with interrupting the flow of enemy
replacement aircraft from bases far to the north. Through the
construction of a complex system of bases, the Japanese were able to
provide air support to their forces in the Philippines. Japanese
aircraft would be brought down from Formosa or from the coast of
Indochina for the purpose. TG 38.2 was assigned to interrupt that flow.
Well into enemy waters, AULT, along with USS WALDRON
(DD-699), USS CHARLES S. SPERRY (DD-697), and USS JOHN W. WEEKS
(DD-701), swept into the South China Sea ahead of Task Force 38. For
nearly two weeks, the powerful task force attacked enemy targets in
China and southeast Asia. Faced with heavy weather and the constant
threat of enemy attack, AULT safely escorted her carriers without loss
to herself or her charges.
During the late winter and early spring of 1945, USS
AULT found herself providing air defense for Task Force 58 carriers
pummeling Iwo Jima and enemy airfields in the Okinawa area. The risk was
great. Japanese air forces staged strike after strike against the task
group. For two months, DD-698 was in almost continuous action facing
kamikaze attacks aimed at the carriers. On March 20, AULT splashed her
first two enemy aircraft. It was an experience DD-698s crew would repeat
As American forces approached Okinawa, Japanese
resistance became even more fanatical. Swarms of suicide attackers
massed around the carriers. AULT's crew endured two months of almost
constant combat, destroying half a dozen enemy planes and assisting in
rescuing survivors from the badly wounded USS BUNKER HILL (CY-17). It
was July before DD-698 reached the relative serenity of San Pedro Bay in
the Philippines. The destroyer had been at sea continuously for eighty
Less than a month later, AULT was back in combat,
joining in the final sweeps off the coast of Japan. By August 15, the
Japanese government announced its willingness to capitulate, and AULT
steamed along the coast, continuing to protect the carriers against
maverick kamikaze pilots who had yet to accept the inevitable. The
destroyer was ultimately given the honor of anchoring near USS MISSOURI
(BB-63) to witness the formal Japanese surrender on September 2, 1945.
AULT returned to the United States in January 1946,
after serving in a variety of roles in Japanese waters. Briefly, she
visited West Coast ports before another long voyage through the Panama
Canal to Boston. The destroyer would receive much-needed repairs at
Boston Navy Yard; a complete overhaul that would require almost a year.
In the years between the end of World War II and the
beginning of conflicts against the Communists in Asia, AULT's career was
like that of so many ALLEN M. SUMNER class destroyers. Training
exercises with Naval Reservists and plane guard duties alternated with
Mediterranean deployments with the Sixth Fleet. By 1950, the decision
had been made to deactivate DD-698.
AULT would remain only briefly with the Inactive
Reserve Fleet in Charleston. Less than six months later, AULT was back
in commission. The Korean War had broken out and DD-698 was needed. The
Soviet Navy was expected to increase its presence in the Atlantic while
the U.S. Navy was engaged far across the Pacific. AULT and many others
were reactivated to forestall that attempt. She would serve effectively
in that thankless role through 1953.
With the end of the Korean War, the show of force was
appropriate to demonstrate American might to the emerging Communist
threat. AULT, along with her sister ships of DESDIV 222 began an
around-the-world cruise, meeting the Seventh Fleet at Yokosuka, Japan.
Her Pacific service was not without incident.
On December 22, 1953, while participating in
anti-submarine exercises with a Seventh Fleet carrier group, AULT
collided with USS HAYNSWORTH (DD-700). With a considerable portion of
her bow missing, AULT required a tow to Yokosuka for repairs. Her cruise
was interrupted for almost three months. Her ultimate return to the
States renewed the cycle of training and cruising.
The Fleet Rehabilitation and Modernization Program
(FRAM) meant a new lease on operational life for AULT. The FRAM II
"rehabilitation" the destroyer experienced at the Boston Navy
Yard from June 1962 through February 1963, extended her service life
well beyond the predicted five years. The familiar round of training
exercise followed her reconstruction.
AULT was needed in the rapidly degenerating situation
off Vietnam and she transferred to the Pacific in 1967. For six months,
with brief visits to Sasebo, Japan, Subic Bay in the Philippines, and
Hong Kong, AULT became a gunslinger. Providing on-call fire support to
operations ashore put DD-698 in great demand. The duty was continuous.
During the day, spotters ashore and overhead called down AULT's fire on
Vietcong positions, then the destroyer provided illumination at night.
In one three-week period, when the destroyer was the only available fire
support ship along several hundred miles of coast, USS AULT expended
more than 6,000 rounds of 5-inch ammunition against shore targets.
Sometimes, those targets fired back.
Operating close to the coast in Operation Seadragon,
AULT came under the fire of powerful shore batteries north of Dong Hoi.
Fortunately, North Vietnamese targeting was poor and DD-698 was up to
her usual high level of proficiency. The destroyer extracted herself,
suffering no damage or casualties. The same could not be said of the
AULT's return to the States in 1967 marked a revival
of her round of training and cruising. The pressures of operation for
almost thirty years had begun to tell, however. A survey, conducted in
1972, suggested that DD-698's "capabilities are not up to fleet
standards" and that additional reconstruction would be
prohibitively expensive. The decision was made to scrap AULT.
DD- 698 was decommissioned for the last time on July
16, 1973 and deleted from the Navy List in September. She was sold for
scrapping to the Boston Metals Company, Baltimore (MD) and she was
dismantled in the months that followed.
USS AULT earned five battle stars for her service in
World War II and an additional two for her service off Vietnam.