Ralph Talbot, born on 6 January 1897 at South Weymouth, Mass., received the Medal of Honor for exceptionally meritorious service and extraordinary heroism while attached to Squadron C, 1st Marine Aviation Force, in France during World War I. A participant in numerous raids into enemy territory, Second Lieutenant Talbot was attacked by nine enemy scouts while on such a raid over Belgium, 8 October 1918, and in the ensuing fight shot down one of his attackers. Six days later, while on a strike against an enemy ammunition depot at Pittem, he and another plane became detached from the formation due to motor trouble and were attacked by 12 enemy scouts. In the fight which followed, his plane shot down one of the enemy scouts before his observer, GySgt. Robert G. Robinson, was shot and the gun jammed. Talbot maneuvered the DeHavilland to gain time while Robinson cleared the gun, then rejoined the battle. Robinson kept on firing until he collapsed from two more wounds. Talbot continued alone, shot down another enemy plane, then dived to escape the remaining Fokkers. Crossing the German trenches at 50 feet, he kept his ship with its failing motor in the air until he reached the nearest hospital where he landed, delivered Robinson to medical personnel and returned to his aerodrome. Second Lieutenant Talbot died when his plane crashed on takeoff, 25 October 1918.
(DD-390: displacement 2,325 (full load); length 341'4"; beam 35'6"; draft 17'1"; speed 35 knots; complement 158; armament 4 5-inch, 4 .50 caliber machine guns; 12 21-inch torpedo tubes; class Gridley)
Ralph Talbot (DD-390) was laid down on 28 October 1935 at the Boston Navy Yard; launched on 31 October 1936; sponsored by Mrs. Mary Talbot, mother of 2nd Lt. Ralph Talbot; and commissioned on 14 October 1937, Lt. Cmdr. Harry R. Thurber in command.
Prior to the U.S. entry into World War II, Ralph Talbot, assigned to Destroyers, Battle Force, operated in the eastern Pacific. In early 1941, she began a major overhaul at Mare Island and in April she rejoined the fleet at San Diego. At mid-month, she steamed to Pearl Harbor whence she operated for the remainder of the year. Moored at Pearl Harbor on the morning of 7 December, she manned her guns and began preparations for getting underway within minutes of the start of the Japanese attack. By 0900 she was en route out of the harbor having already splashed her first enemy aircraft. After the attack, she searched for enemy submarines and, on the 14th, sortied with TF 14 on the first of a series of carrier force screening assignments. In January 1942, she sailed with TF 8 during raids against Japanese positions in the Marshalls and Gilberts and in February and March against Wake and Marcus Islands.
Returning to Pearl Harbor with TF 16 on 9 March 1942, Ralph Talbot joined TF 15 on the 19th and through May escorted convoys between Hawaii and the west coast. In early June, she escorted auxiliaries to the northwest of Hawaii; which refueled and replenished the victors of the Battle of Midway, then escorted TF 16 back to Pearl Harbor. On the 14th she got underway for Australia and New Zealand, whence she sailed on 22 July for the Solomons and the first of the island assaults which would eventually lead to victory. Assigned to TG 62.6, she screened the transport group to Guadalcanal, arriving on the morning of 7 August, then patrolled off the transport area through the landings. On the 8th she took up patrol station north of Savo Island and at 0145 on the 9th received word of three enemy ships inside Savo Island. Soon afterward heavy gunfire was seen to the southeast, the first Battle of Savo Island had begun.
Half an hour later Ralph Talbot was shelled by a friendly destroyer, the error was quickly rectified, but within minutes an enemy cruiser appeared off her port quarter. Both ships opened fire and search light switches were flicked on. Ralph Talbot's cables had been severed in the earlier shelling, but the enemy's worked. The spotlighted 390 took a hit in the chart house which destroyed radar equipment, cut fire control circuits and ignited fires. Three more shells came in close succession, hitting the wardroom, the starboard quarter, and the underside of gun No. 4. Among the 12 dead were the doctor and the chief pharmacist's mate.
At 0221 Ralph Talbot ceased firing. The enemy had disappeared, but the damage she had caused required a new fight. Fire enveloped the bridge and the ship listed heavily to starboard. Slowing to one-third speed, she turned toward Savo. At 0230 all radio communication to and from the vessel ceased, but 20 minutes later she stood in close to the shore where the crew continued the battle to save her. By 0330 fires and flooding were under control and repair work was begun. Soon after 0700 communications were reestablished and by 1210 repairs, including mattress patches on the hull, were sufficient to begin the journey back to the United States for repairs.
Arriving at Mare Island 11 September 1942, Ralph Talbot headed west again 11 November. Refresher exercises kept her in Hawaii until December and on the 16th she got underway for Australia. She arrived at Brisbane 2 January 1943 and until 10 May conducted training exercises and escorted convoys along the northern and eastern coasts of that continent. On 13 May she arrived at Noumea to provide similar service as Allied forces pushed up the Solomons. On 30 June she covered the landings on Rendova to commence the New Georgia campaign, rescuing 300 survivors from McCawley (APA-4) within hours of the completion of the landings. On 5 July she landed 148th Infantry units at Rice Anchorage after softening the landing area with her 5-inch guns. On the 9th and 11th, she participated in the bombardments of Munda and on the night of 12-13 July joined TG 36.1 in a sweep up the Slot. The Allied ships engaged an enemy cruiser and five destroyers escorting destroyer transports in the Battle of Kolombangara. After that battle, salvage operations on Gwin (DD-433) were frustrated by enemy aerial attacks. Ralph Talbot's torpedoes sent the damaged destroyer to the bottom.
Through August and September and into October 1943, Ralph Talbot continued to carry out patrol and escort duties in the Solomons. On 27 October she sailed again for Australia, whence she continued on to Milne Bay, arriving 3 November. There antisubmarine and antiaircraft patrol and escort missions continued. At mid-month she returned briefly to Tulagi, then resumed operations off New Guinea. On 29-30 November she participated in a TF 74 bombardment of Japanese positions on New Britain. In mid-December she covered the landings at Kiriwina as the Allies secured the Trobriands, then, toward the end of the month returned to New Britain to cover the assault on Cape Gloucester. Through the end of the year, she divided her patrol time between Buna and Cape Gloucester.
On 1 January 1944 she got underway with TF 76 for the preinvasion bombardment of, and landings at, Saidor. She next escorted reinforcements to both Saidor and Cape Gloucester. In early February she returned to Milne Bay, thence steamed east to the United States for overhaul. In mid-May she departed San Francisco for Pearl Harbor and a month later sailed for Eniwetok and Saipan as convoy escort. Arriving at Garapan Harbor 5 July, she provided gunfire support to troops ashore, evacuated stranded casualties and on the 7th returned to escort duty in the Marshalls and Marianas. Back at Saipan on the 25th, she provided fire support and harassing shore bombardment fire at Tinian on the 27th, then resumed escort duties. Continuing that duty into August, she joined TF 38.4 at Eniwetok and on the 28th sailed for strikes against the Volcano and Bonin Islands (31 August-2 September) Yap (7-8 September), and the Palaus (10-19 September).
Following the Palau offensive, the force retired to Manus; then returned to the Palaus, whence, in October, they sailed to strike against Japanese shipping and positions on Okinawa, Luzon, and Formosa. On 14 October 1944 the force returned to smash targets on Luzon, continuing the raids through the 19th. On the 20th it supported the Leyte landings, then returned to operations off Luzon. On the 24th it steamed north to intercept the Japanese northern force, a carrier force. On the 25th, as Ralph Talbot screened the heavier vessels, the Battle off Cape Engano was fought and, on the 31st, the force retired to Ulithi.
Ralph Talbot, detached from the fast carriers on 16 November 1944, rejoined the Seventh Fleet on the 17th and, with the CVEs of TG 77.4, patrolled the convoy routes in the Leyte Gulf area until the 27th when she steamed to Kossol Roads. On 12 December she returned to Leyte Gulf, thence escorted the escort carriers into the Sulu Sea for operations in support of the Mindoro landings. A brief respite at Manus followed, preceding her next screening assignment, the Luzon invasion.
Departing the Admiralties two days after Christmas of 1944 [27 December], the destroyer steamed north to Kossol Roads and on 1 January 1945 sortied with the escort carrier group. On the 4th, Ommaney Bay (CVE-79) was hit by a kamikaze and on the 6th the group arrived off Lingayen Gulf. Through the 17th, the destroyer screened the carriers as they provided air cover for the assault troops and on the 23d she returned to Ulithi to replenish. Reassigned to the Fifth Fleet in February, she steamed to Saipan, whence she screened transports to Iwo Jima. Between the 16th and the 27th, she patrolled off that island, then returned to Saipan.
Back at Ulithi 5 March 1945, she remained at that base until 20 April when she got underway for Okinawa. Arriving at Hagushi on the 26th, she immediately reported for duty in TG 51.5 and commenced antiaircraft patrols. Soon after 2200, on the 27th, while patrolling off the anchorage, she was closed by two enemy fighters. The first crashed the starboard side aft. The second, a near miss, splashed into the sea off the port quarter. Damage control parties brought flooding under control by 2213 and within minutes PCE-852 pulled alongside with a medical officer and seven corpsmen. The destroyer then turned back to Kerama Retto for repairs. On 20 May she got underway to return to the Hagushi anchorage where she again joined the antiaircraft screen. On the 26th she shifted to Nakagusuku Wan, thence back to Kerama Retto where she rejoined the escort carriers. A month later she steamed to Leyte, thence to Saipan. There she resumed escort of convoy duty and for the remainder of World War II plied between the Marianas and the Ryukyus.
On 1 September 1945 Ralph Talbot escorted Portland (CA-33) from Guam to Truk and on the 2nd stood by as the Japanese formally surrendered that island fortress during ceremonies aboard the cruiser. Returning to Guam on the 3d the destroyer sailed for Saipan, Okinawa, and Japan on the 5th and, into October, operated off southern Japan and Okinawa, getting underway for the United States on 29 October.
Reporting for duty with the Western Sea Frontier on her return on 19 November 1945, Ralph Talbot was assigned to Joint Task Force 1 the following May 1946, and designated for use as a target in Operation Crossroads, the atomic tests conducted at Bikini in July and August 1946. Contaminated during the tests, the destroyer was towed to Kwajalein where she was decommissioned on 29 August 1946 and sunk, in deep water off the atoll, on 8 March 1948. Her name was stricken from the Navy Register 5 April 1948.
Ralph Talbot earned 12 battle stars during World War II.
Updated 1 June 2016