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Laffey (Benson-class) file photo [4656]

Laffey (Benson-class)

CountryUnited States
Ship ClassBenson-class Destroyer
BuilderBethlehem San Francisco Shipyard
Laid Down13 Jan 1941
Launched30 Oct 1941
Commissioned31 Mar 1942
Sunk13 Nov 1942
Displacement1,620 tons standard
Length348 feet
Beam36 feet
Draft12 feet
Speed37 knots
Armament4x5in, 2x20mm, 3x21in torpedo tubes, 5 depth charge projectors, 2 depth charge tracks


ww2dbaseWith Lieutenant Commander William E. Hank in command, Laffey held her shakedown cruise off the west coast of the United States. She headed for the South Pacific in mid-1942, arriving at Efate on 28 Aug 1942. On 6 Sep, she joined Task Force 18. On 15 Sep, she helped rescuing survivors from the sunken carrier Wasp. On 18 Sep, she joined Task Force 64. She first saw battle in the Battle of Cape Esperance on 11 and 12 Oct 1942, where she helped to repulse a Japanese bombardment group. On 12 Nov, while escorting transports, she underwent a heavy air attack. On the next day, she was engaged in the First Naval Battle of Guadalcanal, in which she was one of the eight destroyers and five cruisers under the overall command of Admiral Daniel J. Callahan. During the battle, Laffey followed destroyer Cushing on a torpedo run, followed by destroyer Sterett. After Cushing fired her spread of six torpedoes at battleship Hiei (which all missed), Cushing drew attention of the Japanese big guns, and was sunk by 14-inch shells. Laffey followed suit with her torpedoes, while her 5-inch guns roared at the direction of Aoba. Like Cushing's, Laffey's torpedoes also failed to hit Hiei, but unlike Cushing's torpedoes which simply went wide, Laffey's torpedoes were fired too close to Hiei, therefore there was not enough time for the torpedoes to become armed. After expending her torpedoes, she found herself trapped by two Japanese battleships and two destroyers. Her 5-inch guns and other smaller weapons fired toward port side at Kirishima's superstructure as she attempted to make her way out of the envelopment, killing Japanese Chief of Staff Masakane Suzuki as her machine guns raked Kirishima's bridge. Suddenly, two consecutive salvos from Kirishima rained down all around her, with at least one 14-inch shell hitting her on her midships superstructure. A moment later, she was hit at the stern by a torpedo from destroyer Teruzuki. Dead in the water, the order to abandon ship was given, but before most of the men able to evacuate, a violent explosion in her after ammunition magazines ripped the destroyer apart, causing her to sink immediately. Her wreck is now about half-mile below the surface of Iron Bottom Sound, upright and largely intact except for her after third.

ww2dbaseSources: United States Navy Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships, United States Navy Naval Historical Center.

Last Major Revision: Aug 2007

Destroyer Laffey (Benson-class) Interactive Map

Laffey (Benson-class) Operational Timeline

31 Mar 1942 Laffey (Benson-class) was commissioned into service.
13 Nov 1942 Cruiser USS Atlanta was sunk by Type 93 torpedoes launched from Japanese destroyer Akatsuki; destroyer USS Barton was sunk by Type 93 torpedoes launched from Japanese destroyer Amatsukaze; and destroyer USS Laffey was sunk by Type 93 torpedoes launched from unidentified Japanese destroyers.


Laffey fitting out at the Bethlehem Steel Company shipyard, San Francisco, California, United States, 3 Jan 1942; note San FranciscoLaffey steaming alongside another American ship, South Pacific, 4 Sep 1942
See all 7 photographs of Destroyer Laffey (Benson-class)

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Visitor Submitted Comments

1. Michael Fitzgibbons says:
4 Jan 2017 10:17:13 PM

My father was a U.S. Navy Higgins boat operator November 13, 1942 looking for survivors after the sea Battle of Guadalcanal. He saw an oil covered man waving on Savo Island and picked him up. The man was a carpenter's mate who reported he was on the USS Laffey below decks when the ship blew up and he's found himself swimming in the water.
In the dark, he began swimming and then apparently noticed something touching his legs, which frightened him. Then he felt it began pushing him. He stated it pushed him several miles to Savo Island. The man had a cut on his buttocks from the dorsal fin of the animal that pushed him, most probably a dolphin. My research indicated there were two carpenters mates on the USS Laffey one of whom survived with injuries. My father reported he attempted to pick up other survivors including Japanese, however the Japanese refused rescue and in one case pointed a pistol at themselves and at my father to prevent him from rescuing them.

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Event(s) Participated:
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Destroyer Laffey (Benson-class) Photo Gallery
Laffey fitting out at the Bethlehem Steel Company shipyard, San Francisco, California, United States, 3 Jan 1942; note San FranciscoLaffey steaming alongside another American ship, South Pacific, 4 Sep 1942
See all 7 photographs of Destroyer Laffey (Benson-class)

Famous WW2 Quote
"Goddam it, you'll never get the Purple Heart hiding in a foxhole! Follow me!"

Captain Henry P. Jim Crowe, Guadalcanal, 13 Jan 1943

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