Benson-class Destroyer, USS Laffey (DD-459) - Lashing Out While Backed Into a Corner

Would you like to see USS Laffey in-game?
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USS Laffey
image
USS Laffey, in harbor, probably at Espiritu Santo, New Hebrides, with survivors of USS Wasp (CV-7) on board. In the background is USS Helena (CL-50), and an unknown destroyer. 1942.

Background
USS Laffey was the 7th ship of the Benson-class; sometimes combined with the Gleaves-class, in which case she was the 25th ship of the Benson-Gleaves-class. She was the first of the 24 “repeat Bensons,” authorized in 1940. She was laid down on the 13th of January, 1941, launched the 30th of October, 1941, and commissioned into the US Navy on the 31st of March, 1942.

The Benson-class destroyers were very closely related to the preceding Sims-class, with two funnels and the new unit system of machinery, or alternating boiler and engine rooms. This change was for increased survivability; in the event of an unlucky hit, the ship would not be totally immobilized. In addition, the Benson-Gleaves-class was the first to mount quintuple torpedo tubes. They also retained the five 5"/38 guns of the Sims, with 3 enclosed and 2 open mounts.
While very similar, the two classes comprising the Benson-Gleaves-class are slightly different. The Benson-class was the first, and differed from the Gleaves-class in using slightly lower rated machinery. However, the two classes used basically the same layout other than that, and are often grouped together. 72 repeat Benson-Gleaveses were ordered in 1940, as the specter of war loomed on the horizon, comprising 24 repeat Bensons, and 48 repeat Gleaveses. By the time they were commissioned, these ships would differ from the initial ones by removing the middle 5"/38 mount, providing fully enclosed mounts for the other guns, having a few Y-Gun depth charge throwers, and removing one torpedo launcher for more small caliber AA.

Upon being commissioned into the Navy, Laffey was deployed to the Pacific, specifically the Solomon Islands, and took part in fierce fighting. She earned 3 battle stars, and a Presidential Unit Citation for her actions in the theatre. She would sink only 8 months after commissioning, on the 13th of November, 1942.

Service History

Laffey would have a short career compared to other American destroyers. Immediately after her shakedown cruise, she was deployed to the Pacific, arriving in Efate on August 28th, 1942. She joined Task Force 18 on the 6th of September, rescuing survivors from USS Wasp, the flagship, after she was sunk on the 15th.

In October of 1942, Laffey would have her first fleet action in the Battle of Cape Esperance, also known as the Second Battle of Savo Island. She was part of the cruiser group that was to intercept Japanese reinforcements headed to Guadalcanal. The battle lasted the night of October 11th to the morning of October 12th, during which Laffey assisted in mauling the cruiser Aoba after she had signaled by search lamp that she was, indeed, Aoba. The fight only lasted a few hours, and by 2 AM the destroyer USS Duncan was sinking, USS Farenholt was badly damaged, and USS Boise was damaged. Losses were worse on the other side, with Furutaka and Fubuki were sunk, and Aoba was extremely damaged (but somehow still floating). Because the Japanese fleet was unable to bombard Henderson Field on Guadalcanal like they were supposed to, the Allied airpower at the field sunk two more destroyers the following day.

A month later, Laffey was present in the fleet that would take part in the First Battle of Guadalcanal. The entire battle, soon after beginning, devolved into a ferocious melee of fire. At some point, Laffey ended up less than 20ft (6m) from the battleship Hiei, and began firing with every gun onboard from the 5 inch guns down to some crew’s handguns. Hiei’s guns could not depress enough to hit Laffey due to the extremely short range, and Laffey’s barrage severely wounded the Admiral on Hiei, Admiral Abe, and killed his Chief of Staff.


Painting of USS Laffey engaging the battleship Hiei at close range, during the First Naval Battle of Guadalcanal.

In exchange for this, moments after watching Hiei disappear into the murk of the night, Laffey came upon ~4 Japanese destroyers, who began firing at her. She was eventually hit by a torpedo, breaking her keel, and further a 14 inch shell from Hiei or Kirishima hit her, leaving her ablaze. As the abandon ship order was given, a massive explosion ripped the destroyer apart, and she sank almost immediately. She took 59 down with her, including her commanding officer, William E. Hank, with a further 116 wounded.
Due to the level of damage Hiei would suffer from the battle, she would be sunk the next day. Laffey herself earned a Presidential Unit Citation from this action, and earned three battle stars for her service.

image
Planform of a Benson-class destroyer, as they were around 1942.

Specifications
1942

General Information
Displacement 2,474 tons (full load)
Length 347ft 10in (106.02m)
Beam36ft 1in (11m)
Draft 17ft 9in (5.41m) (full load)
Speed 37.5 knots (69.5 km/h)
Complement 276 officers and enlisted
Sensors
SC Air/Surface Search
Mk 37 with Mk 4 Radar Fire Control
Weapon Turret/Mount
4 × 5"(127mm)/38 Mk 12 4 x Mk 30 Single
4 × 1.1"(28mm)/75 Mk 1 1 x Quad
8 x 20mm/70 Oerlikon Mk 1 8 x Single
5 x 21" (533mm) Mk 15 Torpedo 1 x Quintuple
? x Mk 6 Depth Charge 6 x K-Gun Launcher, 2 x Tracks at Stern

Conclusion
As part of the destroyer class that was in production for the USN at the time of war breaking out, I believe that Laffey should be added. The interwar destroyers of the USN are somewhat missing from the game, other than the Farragut-class. Due to her weakened anti-surface armament compared to her Benson-Gleaves-class sisters, she would fit nicely between Alywin and Fletcher.

Sources

Wikipedia - Benson-class destroyer
Wikipedia - USS Laffey (DD-459)
Laffey - Home Page
destroyerhistory - Benson-Gleaves-class, Laffey
pacificwrecks - DD-459
Laffey - USS Laffey (DD-459)
History.Navy - USS Laffey (DD-459)
History.Navy - Laffey I
Naval-Encyclopedia - Benson-class destroyer
navsource - DD-459
navweaps - 5"/38 Mk 12

3 Likes

+1, I love the David verses Goliath stories of destroyers attacking much larger ships in near hand to hand combat, would love to see this, HMS Glowworm and ORP Piorun and others in game at some point