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Hull Number: DD-402

Launch Date: 05/14/1938

Commissioned Date: 09/19/1939

Decommissioned Date: 08/28/1946

Call Sign: NARD


Class: BENHAM

BENHAM Class

Data for USS Ellet (DD-398) as of 1945


Length Overall: 340' 9"

Beam: 35' 6"

Draft: 13' 3"

Standard Displacement: 1,500 tons

Full Load Displacement: 2,350 tons

Fuel capacity: 3,192 barrels

Armament:

Four 5″/38 caliber guns
Two 40mm twin anti-aircraft mounts
Two 21″ quadruple torpedo tubes

Complement:

16 Officers
235 Enlisted

Propulsion:

3 Boilers
2 Westinghouse Turbines: 50,000 horsepower

Highest speed on trials: 40.7 knots

Namesake: JOHN MAYRANT

JOHN MAYRANT

Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships, August 2015

Capt. John Mayrant, born in the parish of St. James Santee, S.C., December 1762, was appointed midshipman in the South Carolina Navy 23 May 1778. The following year, in France, he was appointed midshipman and aide to John Paul Jones. Sailing from L’Orient in Bon Homme Richard, he led the boarders in the engagement with Scrapis, 23 September 1779. He died in Tennessee in August 1836.


Disposition:

Scuttled off Kwajalein 2/3/1948. Stricken 4/30/1948.


A Tin Can Sailors Destroyer History

USS MAYRANT DD-402

The Tin Can Sailor, October 1998

USS MAYRANT was the first of the new BENHAM class to be constructed at a navy yard, rather than in a private shipbuilding facility. The new destroyer was laid down on April 15, 1937 and launched on May 14, 1938. She was commissioned in mid-September, 1939, just after the eruption of World War II in Europe. She was the second naval vessel to be named for Captain John Mayrant who, as a midshipman, led the boarding party from John Paul Jones’ BON HOMME RICHARD to the dock of the British frigate HMS SERAPIS in perhaps the most memorable naval action of the American Revolution.

Unlike other BENHAMs, MAYRANT spent most of her career in the Atlantic and Mediterranean. After an extensive shakedown and a training cruise, DD-402 was assigned to escort President Franklin D. Roosevelt on a tour of East Coast defenses that included the recently obtained bases in the Caribbean. The new vessel almost immediately was assigned to the expanded Neutrality Patrol, a collection of ships and aircraft tasked with maintaining a buffer zone in mid-Atlantic. The line was intended to mark the western limits of German submarine activity, and by 1941 that duty became more and more dangerous. Crews always faced the possibility of over-eager German skippers who might forget that the grey vessels protecting vast convoys were not supposed to be targets.

One particularly important target escaped the U-boats because of MAYRANT’s efforts. In the fall of 1941, Prime Minister Winston Churchill traveled to Newfoundland to meet with President Roosevelt. The plans laid at the conference formed the outline for Allied cooperation in the war that both leaders knew would come. Returning to Great Britain aboard the British battleship HMS PRINCE OF WALES, Churchill was escorted by a handpicked force of American destroyers, including USS MAYRANT.

In November 1941, the British were everywhere in retreat. North Africa seemed lost. The only hope for the British Empire was to transfer 22,000 British troops on a route around Africa to enter Egypt “from the back door” via the Persian Gulf. The problem was that the Royal Navy lacked the ships to defend the troopships. In stepped the U.S. Navy and, among other ships, USS MAYRANT. The British force was transported across the Atlantic to Canada, met at mid-ocean by a strong American force. In Halifax, Nova, Scotia, the troops were shifted to American transports and, escorted by MAYRANT, a carrier, two cruisers, and seven other destroyers, the force left for the perilous waters of the South Atlantic. A characteristic South Atlantic gale hit the force in December, and the convoy had yet to enter the waters of the Indian Ocean when word carried to the destroyers that Japan had attacked the American fleet at Pearl Harbor. The troops were delivered successfully, but MAYRANT was officially in a shooting war.

For the first year of the war, DD-402 served widely as a convoy escort, both in the North Atlantic and along the coast of the United States. The success of the North African invasion also meant convoys to the “Dark Continent” also profited from MAYRANT”S expertise. In support of the battleship MASSACHUSETTS (BB-59), DD-402 cruised off the coast of Casablanca as the battlewagon slugged it out with a French battleship. Success at the initial invasion meant that action spread into the Mediterranean, and MAYRANT moved with it.

The Allied invasion of Sicily brought MAYRANT into harm’s way once again. In July, 1943, the success of the Allied invasion of the large island off the southwest coast of Italy was still under contention. Although the British and American navies had secured nominal control of the seas, air supremacy was very much in contention. MAYRANT was one of the ships given the task of protecting the anchorage against German air strikes. The result was a sample of what a heroic destroyer crew could accomplish.

As the destroyer cruised off the anchorage, three German Junkers JU-88s hit the destroyer. The twin-engined bombers each carried three tons of bombs at a speed of over three hundred miles per hour. The threat to the troop and cargo ships in the crowded anchorage was obvious. The attackers, however, picked MAYRANT for their attentions.

The destroyer increased her speed to twenty-five knots and hard right rudder was ordered in an effort to dodge the incoming strike, but the first aircraft dropped her stick of bombs along the starboard side. Almost immediately, aircraft swept in from the port quarter and the bow. A fourth plane, previously unsighted, straddled DD-402.

Crewmen on deck were knocked down by the resultant near misses. All steam power was lost and, although the auxiliary Diesel generator briefly restored some power, that, too, failed. The destroyer was filling rapidly; within minutes, water lapped to within fourteen inches of the weather deck. With her after engine room and forward fire room flooded and no electrical power for weapons or pumps, the destroyer seemed doomed.

The crew did not give up. Bulkheads held and the ship, listing and leaking refused to sink. USS WAINWRIGHT (DD-419) and USS RHIND (DD-404), along with the minecraft USS SKILL (AM-115) and USS STRIVE (AM-117), removed the seriously wounded and brought pumps and fire hoses. STRIVE tied up to MAYRANT to supply electrical power for the wounded destroyer’s weapons, and DD-402 was back in business. USS SKILL towed the destroyer to Palmero, screened by RHIND and WAINWRIGHT. A second air attack concentrated on the undamaged vessels; MAYRANT’s accurate anti-aircraft fire convinced the attackers that she was by no means an easy target. No additional damage was done. One crewman was killed and thirteen wounded. Among the casualties was a wounded Lieutenant Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Jr., son of the President of the United States. Temporary repairs were completed at Malta, then the destroyer returned to Charleston, South Carolina for extensive yard repairs.

Spring of 1945 found MAYRANT on her way to the Pacific. Resuming her activities as an escort, MAYRANT shepherded convoys to Saipan, Iwo Jima, and Okinawa before the end of hostilities. The destroyer even made the preliminary arrangements to accept the surrender of enemy forces on Marcus Island.

Peace in the Pacific allowed time for MAYRANT to once again visit a yard, this time in San Diego. Navy planners knew this would be the last time for the obsolescent destroyer however. DD-402 was scheduled to be “expended” in the atomic bomb tests, code named “Operation Crossroads” held at Bikini atoll in May 1946. Although the blast failed to sink her, MAYRANT was rendered so highly radioactive that disposal was the only real option. The destroyer was scuttled off Kwajalein on April 4, 1948.

MAYRANT earned three battle stars for her service in World War II.

USS MAYRANT DD-402 Ship History

Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships, August 2015

The second Mayrant (DD‑402) was laid down 15 April 1937 at the Boston Navy Yard, Boston, Mass.; launched 14 May 1938; sponsored by Mrs. E. E. Sheely, a descendant of Capt. John Mayrant; and commissioned 19 September 1939, Lt. Comdr. E. A. Taylor in command.

During the summer of 1940, after shakedown and an extended training period, Mayrant escorted her Commander in Chief, Franklin D. Roosevelt, on a tour of east coast defenses. Later on in the year, again escorting the President, she visited island bases newly acquired from Great Britain under the “destroyers for bases” agreement.

The following spring, 1941, as U.S. involvement in European hostilities increased, her Navy expanded its efforts to keep the sealanes open. In May, the limits of the neutrality patrol were extended and the Navy gradually expanded its responsibilities for transatlantic convoys. By September, it was officially responsible for protecting them as far as Iceland, lengthening the patrols of the Support Force, Atlantic Fleet, which had been assigned the task.

Mayrant, on duty with that force, operated off Newfoundland during the spring and summer. In August she stood‑by during the Atlantic Charter Conferences and, at their conclusion, escorted HMS Prince of Wales, carrying Prime Minister Churchill, to Great Britain.

In late October, Mayrant joined a convoy from Halifax to Capetown. Two days out of the latter port, on 7 December 1941, she received news of the U.S. entry into the war. She then joined Royal Navy ships protecting convoys transporting British and Canadian troops to South Africa. She returned to the United States January 1942, and for the next 5 months engaged in North Atlantic convoy duty. In April, she sailed to Scapa Flow where she joined the British Home Fleet. As a unit of that fleet she participated in operations in the Denmark Strait in search of the German battleship Tirpitz in addition to escorting several conveys on the “suicide run” to Murmansk.

Mayrant returned to the east coast in July and immediately put her experience to work conducting antisubmarine warfare training exercises in the Caribbean. Relieved of that duty in October, she resumed convoy work. She escorted troops to north Africa for the November invasions and provided fire support off Casablanca 8 and 9 November. Continuing her support activities, she helped to insure the safe passage of supplies to the area into the new year, 1943.

Following the success of the north African invasion, Mayrant spent several months on convoy duty off the east coast, returning to north African waters in May. Passing through the Straits of Gibraltar, she arrived Mers‑el‑Kebir, 23 May. Throughout June she cruised the north African coast from Oran to Bizerte, escorting convoys and conducting antisubmarine patrols. On 14 July, she shifted her base of operations northward to Sicily. While on anti-air patrol off Palermo, 26 July, she was attacked by Luftwaffe dive bombers.

A near miss, only a yard or two off her port bow, during this encounter caused extensive damage. Her side ruptured and her engineering space flooded, she was towed into Palermo with five dead and 18 wounded.

In spite of her damage, the destroyer-s guns helped repel several Luftwaffe raids on Palermo the next week. On 9 August, she was towed to Malta where temporary repairs were completed by 14 November. She then steamed to Charleston, S.C., for extensive yard repairs.

Back in fighting trim, 15 May 1944 she departed Charleston for Casco Bay, Maine. For the next year she operated primarily along the east coast, escorting new cruisers and carriers on shakedown and protecting coastal convoys. During this year she also escorted two convoys to the Mediterranean.

On patrol off New England, 5 April 1945, Mayrant went to the rescue of the cargo ship Atlantic States, torpedoed off Cape Cod Light. Despite heavy weather, the destroyer transferred members of her crew to the powerless merchantman and took her in tow. For 2 days until oceangoing tugs had her under control, they battled waves and breaking lines to keep Atlantic States from drifting and sinking.

The war in Europe drawing to a close, Mayrant transferred to the Pacific Fleet. She arrived Pearl Harbor 21 May and underwent intensive training in shore bombardment and night operations. On 2 June she sailed for Ulithi escorting convoys to Iwo Jima, Okinawa, and Saipan. After the end of hostilities, Mayrant was designated to make preliminary arrangements for the surrender of the enemy garrison on Marcus, a bypassed island in the central Pacific. With the official surrender of the island 31 August, the destroyer took up air‑sea rescue operations in the Marshalls and Marianas.

On 30 December, Mayrant arrived at San Diego for a brief stay before heading back to the central Pacific. Designated as test ship for operation “Crossroads,” the 1946 atomic bomb tests, she arrived Bikini Atoll, Marshall Islands, 31 May 1946. Surviving the tests, but too highly contaminated, Mayrant decommissioned at Bikini 28 August 1946. She was destroyed 4 April 1948 and struck from the Navy Register on the 30th.

Mayrant received three battle stars for World War Il service.