The USS Duncan (DD-485) rolled down the quays on February 20, 1942, at Kearny, New Jersey. Like her sister ship, the Aaron Ward, she was a Gleaves-class destroyer. The Navy commissioned her in mid-April 1942.
Two months later, she left the Atlantic to join the Pacific Fleet and arrived in Espiritu Santo in September to join the American struggle to hold onto Guadalcanal. She accompanied the Wasp when a Japanese submarine torpedoed and sank the carrier. The destroyer stayed in the vicinity and, when the Wasp’s captain scuttled her, rescued hundreds of the carrier’s survivors.
In the weeks following that tragedy, the Duncan escorted carriers and transports as the Americans brought reinforcements to help the beleaguered Marines on Guadalcanal. When a powerful Japanese naval force arrived in Iron Bottom Sound to shell the men on the island on October 11-12, this destroyer was part of an American task force that stopped the Japanese at the Battle of Cape Esperance. Her masterful maneuvering and accurate shellfire contributed to the sinking of the Japanese heavy cruiser Furutaka. However, she suffered fatal damage from gunfire, and, after unsuccessful attempts to salvage her, the destroyer on October 12 off Savo Island.