The first and second Henleys were named for Robert Henley, born 5 January 1783 in Williamsburg, Ara., son of Leonard and Elizabeth Dandridge Henley and nephew of Martha Dandridge Custis Washington. Appointed a midshipman 8 April 1799, Henley participated in the engagement between Constellation and La Vengeance during the Quasi-War with France 2 February 1800. After service with Preble's squadron in the Mediterranean and a cruise to the East Indies, Henley received his first command, Gunboat No. 5, at Baltimore 9 April 1808. Henley was in command of 2 divisions of 15 gunboats which drove 3 British frigates from Hampton Roads 20 June 1813. Reporting to brig Eagle, he received the thanks of Congress and a gold medal for valiant conduct in the Battle of Lake Champlain 11 September 1814. With the end of-the War of 1812, Henley filled a variety of billets before commanding Hornet against pirates in the West Indies. He captured pirate schooner Moscow off Santo Domingo 29 October 1821. After serving as commandant of the Naval Rendezvous at Norfolk 1822 to 1824, he reported for similar duty at Charleston. Captain Robert Henley died at Sullivan's Island, Charleston, after a short illness 7 October 1828.
The third Henley was named for John D. Henley, brother of Captain Robert Henley, who was born in Williamsburg 25 February 1781. Commissioned midshipman 14 August 1799, Henley served in Chesapeake cruising in the West Indies until 1801. Departing Baltimore in the schooner Vixen 3 August 1803, he joined the Mediterranean Squadron for the AVar with Tripoli. An officer in Gunboat No. 6 under Lieutenant John Trippe, Henley participated in the attack on Tripoli 3 August 1804. Gunboat No. 6 ran alongside one of the enemy's large boats and nine men and two officers, Trippe and Henley, stormed the Tripolitan before the gunboat fell away from the enemy. Although outnumbered three to one, the Americans fought so fiercely that within a few minutes the enemy struck their colors. Fourteen of the enemy had been killed and 22 were taken prisoner. Both Trippe and Henley were highly commended for their bravery in this action. Following completion of his tour in the Mediterranean in 1805, Henley made a merchant voyage to distant ports and then in September 1807, assumed command of Gunboat No. 20. Henley then served a tour in Washington and with the outbreak of war against the British was ordered to Charleston in June 1813 to command schooner Carolina. His ship was destroyed 27 December 1814 off New Orleans during a fierce struggle in which the few small warships played a decisive role in delaying the powerful British attack and bringing victory. For his part in the victory at New Orleans 8 January 1815 Henley was highly commended by General Andrew Jackson. Promoted to Captain 5 March 1817, Henley commanded John Adams in the West Indies and Congress in the Indian Ocean before taking command of Macedonian in the struggle against West Indian pirates in 1822. Captain Henley served as commandant of the Charleston and Baltimore stations an dthe Portsmouth Navy Yard, New Hampshire, 1826 to 1832. On 16 August 1832 he was given command of the West India Squadron with Vandalia as his flagship. Captain Henley died on board Vandalia in Havana, Cuba, 23 May 1835.
(DD-391: dp. 1850; l. 341'4" ; b. 35'5" ; dr. 10'4" ; s. 35 k.; cpl. 158 ; a. 4 5", 4 .50 cal., 16 21" tt.; cl. Gridley)
The second Henley (DD-391) was launched 12 January 1937 by the Mare Island Navy Yard, Vallejo, Calif.; sponsored by Miss Beryl Henley Joslin, a collateral descendant of Captain Robert Henley ; and commissioned 14 August 1937, Lt. Comdr. H. Y. McCown in command.
After shakedown in the Pacific and Hawaiian waters, Henley joined the Pacific Battle Force, Destroyer Division 11, at San Diego 12 September 1938. She departed San Diego 14 April 1941 to join the Fleet at Pearl Harbor. When the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor 7 December 1941, Henley was moored in Bast Loch with battle stations manned, a green sailor having sounded General Quarters instead of Quarters for Muster. This fortunate mistake gave Henley the opportunity to fire the first destroyer shots as the initial wave of enemy planes swooped in. A bomb exploded 150 yards off her port bow as she slipped her chain from the buoy, and, as she cleared, she received a signal that a submarine was in the harbor. Henley maneuvered through the smoke, fire, and confusion and sped out of the channel. Her gunners splashed one dive bomber with her .50 cal. guns and shared credit for another. Conned by a junior lieutenantóboth her commanding officer and executive officer were ashore when the attack beganóHenley dropped depth charges on a sonar contact, possibly a midget submarine, outside the harbor, and continued to blaze away at the enemy with her guns. In the following weeks Henley operated with the task forces to reinforce Wake Island and conducted patrol for the protection of Midway and convoy lanes. She served as part of the ASW screen when Saratogasteamed at high speed from the West Coast bringing replacement planes and her own powerful air group.
Henley carried out convoy and antisubmarine duty, primarily in Australian waters, until departing Wellington 22 July 1942 to escort transports to Guadalcanal. As American forces stormed ashore in the Solomons 7 August, Henley patrolled on an ASW station, coming under fire from enemy planes but suffering no casualties and assisting in splashing two in the process. As the fierce struggle for Guadalcanal raged, the destroyer remained in the area to screen ships bringing up supplies and reinforcements until 29 August. Henley then set course south, and remained in Australian and New Guinea waters until September 1943 on plane guard, convoy duty, and antisubmarine patrol.
When Australian troops established a beachhead at Finschafen, New Guinea, 21 September 1943, Henley formed a part of their protective screen. Attacked by 10 Japanese torpedo bombers, she splashed 3 and assisted in downing 3 others in a fierce half hour engagement. However, the valiant ship's wartime career, begun in the chaos at Pearl Harbor, was drawing to a close. On 3 October 1943 Henley was steaming with Reid and Smith on an offensive sweep off Finschafen when her skipper sighted two torpedoes heading for her. Split-second maneuvering permitted Henley to evade those two torpedoes; but a third was immediately sighted, closing too fast and too near to be avoided. Henley was struck on the port side, with the torpedo exploding in the number 1 fire-room, destroying her boilers, breaking her keel, and displacing her bow about 30 degrees from the longitudinal axis of the ship.
At 1829, with all her crew having abandoned ship, Henley went down, stern first Her companion DD's searched for the sub, then returned to rescue Henley's survivors, who had lashed their life-rafts together and were using flashlights as signals. Eighteen officers and 225 men were rescued, with 1 officer and 14 men missing.
Henley earned four battle stars for her participation in World War II.