USS Duncan (DD-485)

USS Duncan (DD-485), a Gleaves-class destroyer, was the second ship of the United States Navy to be named for Silas Duncan, who was severely wounded by enemy fire which caused the loss of his right arm during the Battle of Lake Champlain on 11 September 1814.

United States
Name: Duncan
Builder: Federal Shipbuilding and Drydock Company
Laid down: 31 July 1941
Launched: 20 February 1942
Commissioned: 16 April 1942
Fate: Sank on 12 October 1942, north of Savo Island
General characteristics
Class and type: Gleaves-class destroyer
Displacement: 1,630 tons
Length: 348 ft 3 in (106.15 m)
Beam: 36 ft 1 in (11.00 m)
Draft: 11 ft 10 in (3.61 m)
  • 50,000 shp (37,000 kW);
  • 4 boilers;
  • 2 propellers
Speed: 37.4 knots (69 km/h)
Range: 6,500 nmi (12,000 km; 7,500 mi) at 12 kn (22 km/h; 14 mph)
Complement: 16 officers, 260 enlisted

Duncan was launched on 20 February 1942 by Federal Shipbuilding and Dry Dock Co., Kearny, New Jersey; sponsored by Mrs. D. C. Thayer. The ship was commissioned on 16 April 1942, Lieutenant Commander Edmund B. Taylor in command.

Service history

Duncan sailed from New York on 20 June 1942 for the South Pacific, arrived at Espiritu Santo on 14 September to join TFs 17 and 18, and with them departed the same day to cover transports carrying the 7th Marine Regiment to reinforce Guadalcanal. Duncan was in the screen of the aircraft carrier Wasp next day when the task force was attacked by two Japanese submarines. Wasp was torpedoed, and so severely damaged that she had to be sunk by United States ships. Duncan picked up survivors from the carrier, transferring 701 officers and men to other ships, and 18 wounded and 2 bodies to the base hospital at Espiritu Santo upon her arrival 16 September.

Duncan continued to operate from Espiritu Santo to the Solomons, screening transports and ships of the covering forces. On 11 October 1942, she was in the screen of Task Force 64 (TF 64) which was assigned to protect a vital transport convoy carrying reinforcements to Guadalcanal. Contact was made with a large enemy surface force just as the American ships were executing a course change as part of their battle plan. Duncan, having a clear radar contact and seeing her flagship apparently steady upon a course which would close the target, believed the destroyers were closing to attack, and found herself charging alone toward the enemy force.

In the resulting Battle of Cape Esperance, Duncan pumped several salvos into a cruiser, then shifted fire to a destroyer, at the same time maneuvering radically to avoid enemy fire and that from her own forces, who were now joining in the attack. She got off two torpedoes toward her first target, Furutaka, and kept firing until hits she had received put her out of action. The commanding officer ordered the bridge, isolated by fire, abandoned, and the wounded lowered into life rafts. The men on board attempted to beach the ship on Savo Island, but then, believing she might yet be saved, continued to fight the fires until power failed, when they abandoned ship. Destroyer McCalla rescued 195 men from the shark-infested waters and made an attempt to salvage Duncan, but she sank on 12 October 1942, about 6 miles (10 km) north of Savo Island.


Duncan received one battle star for World War II service.


  • USS Duncan website at Destroyer History Foundation
  • USS Duncan
  • USS Duncan
  • Roll of Honor
  • Boehm, Roy (8 March 1999). "Blood In The Water". Newsweek. Retrieved 14 June 2009.

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