|The first of the MAHANs to be built at the Philadelphia Navy Yard would also be the second destroyer named for Stephen Cassin, whose remarkable service while captain of USS TICONDEROGA at the Battle of Lake Champlain in the War of 1812 earned him a gold medal from Congress. Capt. Cassin passed away in 1857.USS CASSIN was laid down on October 1, 1934 and launched almost four hundred days later. The new destroyer would be commissioned on August 21, 1936. CASSIN required more than five months of alterations before becoming fully operational, so the new vessel did not enter full fleet service until the spring of 1937.
Following a cruise through the Caribbean to Brazil, CASSIN was ordered to the Pacific. In the years prior to the beginning of World War II, DD-372 would participate in fleet exercises and function as a school ship with the torpedo and gunnery schools in San Diego.
Long in need of an overhaul, USS CASSIN was caught sharing Dry dock 1 with USS DOWNES (DD-375) and the battleship PENNSYLVANIA (BB-38) when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor on the morning of December 7, 1941. At about 8:50 AM, the second wave of Japanese attackers began to concentrate on both USS NEVADA (BB-36), which at the time was attempting to sortie from the harbor, and the ships docked in the navy yard. Between ten and fifteen dive-bombers and high level bombers concentrated on the area around Dry dock 1. The first bomb to hit DD-372 penetrated the relatively thin skin of the destroyer and exploded on the dry dock floor, immediately starting a fire. Power and water connections were soon lost when a new rain of bombs exploded on the huge dock walls. A second bomb, probably weighing nearly five hundred pounds, penetrated the hull somewhere forward of the bridge. Exploding on the dock floor, the weapon ripped open the fuel tanks of both destroyers. By the end of the attack, CASSIN was aflame from stem to stern, with torpedo air flasks, warheads, and ammunition beginning to “cook off.” Depth charges, still in their stern racks, seemed likely to go next. Yard officials decided to flood the dock to quench the flames, but the unstable nature of the badly damaged ship coupled with inadequate blocking support for the hull, caused CASSIN to list to starboard, coming to rest on the mauled DOWNES. By the end of the day, salvage crews had decided that CASSIN was a total loss. Highly effective recovery techniques and a patriotic zeal proved the initial estimate to be wrong.
There was little question that CASSIN would require extensive repair; the initial plan was to refloat the destroyer merely to clear the dock for more immediate use. Someone developed a novel idea, however. A survey suggested that far more than half of the vessel was in condition for further use. Officials at the Mare Island shipyard suggested that usable items be stripped from DD-372, carefully labeled, and transported to their facility for use in a new hull. All agreed. USS CASSIN was refloated on February 18, 1942 and moved to the Pearl Harbor Navy Yard for dismantling. By October, the remnants of CASSIN that could not be used were scrapped. Simultaneously, a “new” CASSIN was arising, like the Phoenix, from the ashes of the Pearl Harbor attack.
With her new hull and modernized “British” bridge, the ship that was recommissioned on February 5, 1944 cut a dashing figure. Her fighting spirit never diminished, however.
DD-372 returned to the war just in time to take part in the final thrusts past Saipan and Tinian toward the Philippines. Her expert gun crews blasted caves on Tinian, then on Marcus Island. Her services were next required to screen the carrier task groups approaching the Philippines, where her effective screening and shore bombardment techniques were utilized again and again. The Marines on Iwo Jima had occasion to thank the ship builders at Mare Island as well. CASSIN’s accurate fire support contributed significantly to the success of the landings on that hotly contested island as well.
The Japanese were not CASSIN’s only enemy. On June 6, 1945, DD-372 was caught in a typhoon that took the life of one crewman and tore away the vessel’s motor whaleboat. Less than a month after that ordeal, the re-doubtable tin can was again on station, providing gunfire support at Iwo Jima.
The end of the war in the Pacific found USS CASSIN guarding the air evacuation of prisoners of war from Japan.
DD-372 returned to Norfolk on November 1, 1945 and was decommissioned at the Virginia base in December. CASSIN was sold for scrapping on November 25, 1947.
USS CASSIN earned six battle stars for her service in World War II.