Destroyer Squadron 21

In September of 1942, during the early stages of the Solomon Islands campaign, the first 2100-ton Fletcher-class DDs arrived on station to form what became DesRon 21. Admired for their speed and rakish design, these ships were the latest and most advanced warships of the period. They swung right into action, participating in most of the surface engagements, shore bombardments, air defense actions and amphibious landings throughout the Solomons chain.

There quickly developed an esprit de corps among the officers and crews of the squadron, knowing that they had been and were going to be the lead ships in surface engagements with the best of the Japanese navy. In fact, to have the crews of the ships in Tulagi Harbor and Purvis Bay “man the rails” to cheer DesRon 21 DDs returning from a night action up “the Slot” was pretty heady stuff. USS Taylor received the Navy Unit Commendation “for outstanding heroism in action against enemy Japanese forces during the Solomons Campaign, March 15, to October 7, 1943”.

In October 1943, the squadron was ordered north to the central Pacific to join the fast carrier task forces in the Gilberts and Marshalls campaigns. Later it was to see action in most of the Pacific naval operations, ending in the victorious entrance to Tokyo Bay for the Japanese surrender.

The ships’ companies and the destroyers of DesRon 21 — Nicholas (DD 449) (flagship), O’Bannon (DD 450), Fletcher (DD 445), DeHaven (DD 469) (sunk), Radford (DD 446), Jenkins (DD 447), LaVallette (DD 448), Chevalier (DD 451) (sunk), Strong (DD 467) (sunk), Taylor (DD 468) and replacements Hopewell (DD 681) and Ross (DD 563) — will forever be a proud part of naval history.

Taylor, Nicholas and O’Bannon escort the USS Missouri into Tokyo Bay

The remaining destroyers of the famed DesRon 21 escorted the USS Missouri into Tokyo Bay for the surrender on 28 August 1945. Admiral Halsey’s praise of DesRon 21 above and this honor recognized the bravery of the squadron. The Taylor was the first destroyer to drop anchor in Tokyo Bay.

“How were these destroyers chosen for this honor? They were part of Destroyer Squadron 21, which had fought in almost every major battle in the Pacific war, beginning with Guadalcanal, with great distinction, often against incredible odds. Admiral William Halsey believed that Desron 21 was a key factor in holding the line in the Solomons until help arrived, an achievement of the Admiral’s that may have saved the Pacific war. He, thus, honored these remaining destroyers from the squadron to lead his armada into Tokyo Bay.”

Read account of “Destroyer Squadron 21” actions during World War II by Ernest A. Herr.

More accolades for DesRon 21 by Adm Nimitz, Capt Burke and Naval Messages