The USS Laffey (DD-724) may be moored in the shadow of the USS Yorktown at Patriot’s Point in Charleston, SC, but she isn’t overshadowed by the larger aircraft carrier. She stands large as a symbol of courage and determination through the actions she saw in World War II. The USS Laffey was commissioned in February 1944 and like the USS Yorktown, was named after a previous holder of the name Laffey, the USS Laffey (DD-459), which was sunk during the Battle of Guadalcanal in November 1942. She saw service in both the European and Pacific Theaters of World War II, participating in the D-Day invasion of France in June 1944 and the Battle of Okinawa in April 1945. Following World War II, she was decommissioned in June 1947. In January 1951, she was recommissioned for action during the Korean War and continued to serve during the Cold War era until she was again decommissioned in March 1975. In 1981 she was transferred to Patriot’s Point and remains there today as a museum ship.
The USS Laffey and her crew cemented their reputation during the Battle of Okinawa in April 1945. On 16 April, she was assigned to radar picket duty to help protect the fleet from Japanese air attacks. On 17 April, the Japanese attacked with approximately 50 aircraft; 22 of them attacked the Laffey. Her crew shot down 9 aircraft but they and fighters from the fleet’s carriers couldn’t stop them all. The Laffey was struck by strafing fire, four bombs, and six kamikaze aircraft. The ship’s after 5″ gun turret was destroyed along with several other 20mm and 40 mm gun mounts and the ship was on fire in multiple places. Of her 336 man crew, 32 men were killed and 71 were wounded. The survivors put forth an extraordinary damage control effort and saved the ship. She was towed back to the United States and by October, she was back with fleet in Hawaii.
The Laffey was decommissioned in 1947 but recommissioned in 1951 for the Korean War. During the Korean war, she participated in carrier screening and blockade duties. After the Korean War, she saw service in the Mediterranean during the Suez Crisis. Until she was decommissioned in 1975, the Laffey continued to operate in the Atlantic, Caribbean, and the Mediterranean. A new exhibit in the Laffey’s Combat Information Center (CIC) demonstrates part of what the Laffey did during the Cold War. Through holograms and audio through some of the CIC’s equipment, it takes visitors through an encounter with a Russian submarine as the Laffey screens an aircraft carrier.
Also on display in the USS Laffey is a QH-50 Dash (Drone Anti Submarine Helicopter). A ship like the Laffey was too small to accommodate a full size helicopter, so they would be equipped with QH-50s, which could carry a torpedo or depth charge to extended the ship’s weapons range against submarines. The photos below show the Laffey’s helicopter deck and hangar and a QH-50 inside the hangar (the Laffey could carry two).