The USS Cassin: Pearl Harbor and Beyond

October 22, 2017

On the morning of December 7, 1941, Japanese bombs fell and torpedoes slashed through the waters of Pearl Harbor, causing a devastating amount of damage to the vessels lined up in Battleship Row in in the dry docks nearby. Each of the seven battleships moored there suffered some degree of damage, some far worse than others. The USS Arizona (BB-39) and the USS Oklahoma (BB-37) were completely destroyed. Though the Maryland (BB-46) was believed by Japan to also have been sunk, she ultimately survived and became one of the first ships to return to the war.

The battleships of Pearl Harbor tend to get the most attention, primarily because they were Japan’s main target, but there were many ships moored in the harbor. Just under 90 other vessels, ranging from destroyers to cutters, were put in harm's way during the Japanese attack, and many weren’t lucky enough to avoid damage.

During the attack on Pearl Harbor, ships like the USS Cassin (DD-372), a Mahan-class destroyer, suffered what was originally thought to be fatal damage. While she was extensively damaged during the attack, she was resurrected and went on to return to service during the remainder of World War II.

The Journey of the USS Cassin

USS Cassin

USS Cassin and Downes in foreground, with USS Pennsylvania behind

When the Japanese launched their attack on Pearl Harbor, the USS Cassin was still a relatively new addition to the Navy. Launched on October 28th, 1935 and commissioned on August 21st, 1936, she didn’t see much action before undergoing alterations a year after her commissioning. In April 1938, she was directed to join the Pearl Harbor fleet to take part in the yearly fleet exercises. It was the most excitement she’d seen up until that point, but three years later, she’d be on the receiving end of an incendiary bomb.

Almost Down

When Japan attacked Pearl Harbor, the USS Cassin was in drydock with the USS Downes (DD-375) and USS Pennsylvania (BB-38). Amidst the chaos, an incendiary bomb erupted near a fuel tank of the Downes, resulting in deadly fires that spread throughout the dock. By the time the fires were put out, the Cassin had slipped from her keel and slammed against the Downes. Later that day, she was decommissioned and considered a total loss. But that wasn't to be the end of the USS Cassin.

A Ship Reborn

On February 5th, 1944, after materials and equipment from the nearly-destroyed Cassin were sent to Mare Island Navy Yard to be used in the construction of a new vessel bearing the same name and hull number, she was recommissioned and, a little over a month later, reported to Pearl Harbor.

During the course of the war, the Cassin served as an escort, bombarded enemy ground units on Pacific Islands, and assisted in the preparations for the Iwo Jima invasion. After the island was taken by American forces, she returned for air-sea rescue duty, occasionally returning to Guam and Saipan for repairs and supply replenishment.

On June 6th, 1945, shortly before the end of the war, the Cassin suffered the loss of one crew member during a deadly typhoon, but it didn’t stop her from bombarding Kita-Iojima, in July. It didn’t take long after the end of the war for the USS Cassin to be decommissioned again and in November of 1947, she was sold for scrap, ending a fascinating career.

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