The name "Beatty" was originally assigned to a destroyer scheduled to be built in San Francisco, but the names of DD-528 and DD-640 were switched on 28 May 1941 to accommodate Mrs. Charles H. Drayton, the daughter of the late Rear Admiral, who had asked that the ship honoring her father be built at Charleston. Sponsored by Mrs. Drayton, Beatty was launched on 20 December 1941, and commissioned on 7 May 1942, Lieutenant Commander Frederick C. Stelter, Jr., in command.
Following shakedown, Beatty escorted the Norwegian tanker Britainsea and the American SS Barstowe from the Isles of Shoals to Portland, Maine, on 8 August before she was detached for patrol duty and antisubmarine warfare (ASW) training. She next steamed to Boston to embark Admiral Royal E. Ingersoll, Commander in Chief, Atlantic Fleet, on 12 August. In company with , the destroyer transported her high-ranking passenger to Halifax, Nova Scotia, and Argentia, Newfoundland, before disembarking him at Portland on 22 August. The destroyer then escorted the armed yacht , in which Admiral Ingersoll was embarked, from Portland to New London, Connecticut where she arrived on the 23d.
Beatty took part in exercises out of New London with friendly submarines until the 25th and then sailed south to Charleston, S.C., for voyage repairs. After that, she steamed to the West Indies and the Gulf of Mexico, reaching Cristobal in the Panama Canal Zone on 10 September. There, she joined Convoy NC-5 — four Army transports — which got underway for the British West Indies on the 11th. The warship shepherded her charges to Trinidad, and made port on the 15th.
Clearing Trinidad shortly before noon on 16 September, Beatty joined and in an antisubmarine sweep near Tobago Island. At 18:58, Eberle reported a submarine contact, close aboard, and carried out an attack, but without achieving any definitive results. Beatty then rendezvoused with a convoy on the 17th and conducted it to a dispersal point off Georgetown, British Guiana, before heading back to Trinidad. After shifting to San Juan, where she made port on the 23d, Beatty sailed with Convoy NC-5 — via Kingston, Jamaica, and Belize, Honduras — to New Orleans. Sailing for the east coast on 6 October, she reached Charleston on the 8th to prepare for her next operation.
Underway again on 16 October 1942, Beatty sailed for Hampton Roads and there joined Task Group 34.10 (TG 34.10) — the Southern Attack Group assembling there for Operation Torch, the invasion of North Africa. This group was slated to assault Safi, French Morocco. Arriving off the North African shore on 7 November, TG 34.10 began preparations for landing early the following morning. Beatty joined the transport area's antisubmarine screen at midnight and patrolled south of and — a pair of old flush deckers reconfigured as fast transports — as they circled slowly waiting for the order to land their troops at Safi.
Enjoying the element of surprise, Beatty proceeded in toward the beach, staying on Bernadou’s starboard quarter as she and Cole began their movement shoreward. At 04:15, Beatty took her station along with other ships of the fire support group, and, at 04:30, heard the prearranged code words "Play Ball." Uncertain as to the position of the assault groups, Beatty checked fire momentarily until intercepting a radio transmission that told of the assault wave's arrival at the line of departure. Thus assured that no friendly troops had yet landed in the sector she was to fire into, Beatty opened fire at 04:31, continuing for ten minutes before checking fire to await instructions for fire support.
However, Beatty lost communication with the Army troops on shore and by 05:20 maneuvered seaward toward the transport area to take station as an antiaircraft and antisubmarine screen before sunrise. At 06:40, she observed enemy fire from batteries at Point de la Tour, and saw some splashes close aboard and in the vicinity of the boat lane to the "Red" and "Blue" beaches. A minute later, Beatty took these guns under fire and silenced them in 20 minutes. For the remainder of her participation in "Torch," Beatty served in the screen. She returned to the United States late in November and entered the New York Navy Yard for voyage repairs and alterations.
For the next four months, Beatty covered convoys plying the Atlantic between New York and French Morocco. During this period she made three round-trip cycles interspersed by voyage repairs at the New York Navy Yard and training. Ending the third cycle upon her arrival at New York on 28 April, Beatty underwent the usual voyage repairs and conducted type training before getting underway for Hampton Roads on 13 May. Reaching Norfolk the following day, she escorted Vixen, with Admiral Ingersoll embarked, to New York, arriving on the 15th. Further type training in the Chesapeake Bay area, with shore-bombardment and anti-submarine measures emphasized, followed before she stood out of Hampton Roads on 8 June as part of the escort for fast Convoy UGF-9, bound for Algeria. She arrived at Mers-el-Kébir on 25 June 1943.
Led by subchaser PC-557 and minesweeper , the first landing craft from the attack transport began nosing shoreward around 03:42. lay on Speed’s port beam, with Beatty 500 yards off Cowie’s port beam. At about 04:07, six minutes after dawn began to lighten the eastern skies, Speed requested the destroyers to open fire. Beatty promptly complied, beginning with rapid fire and then slowing to eight rounds per gun per minute. Having observed no return fire, she ceased fire at 04:16.
After the neutralization of the landing zone, Beatty returned to the transport area to take up screening duties and to await contact with her shore fire control party (SFCP). At 08:30, SFCP-7A — attached to the 2d Battalion of the Army's 180th Regimental Combat Team — informed Beatty that the landing had been successful.
During the forenoon, Beatty observed enemy planes appearing low and fast out of the Valle Forte, over Lagi di Biviere, and from the valley just west of the Fiume Acati, strafing ground troops, bombing the beaches and seemingly disappearing almost as soon as they were seen. Hedge-hopping, keeping low, and taking advantage of the low cloud cover until they were almost at their objectives, these enemy planes "maintained their nuisance value the entire period of daylight," enjoying what almost amounted to immunity due to the fact that "ships could not fire on them also without danger to (our) own forces." The enemy aircraft proved devastating to Allied spotting planes. Beatty observed four Italian Reggiane Re.2001s gang up on and shoot down a Curtiss SOC at 10:21. At 13:15, a Focke-Wulf Fw 190 downed another SOC to the southeast of Scoglitti.
In such close quarters, there were bound to be mix-ups. Beatty claimed some solid hits on one of the Re.2001s that had downed the first SOC, observing it disappear over a nearby section of high ground. At 10:46, a plane, first identified by lookouts as an Fw 190, roared out of the "favorite valley" toward the ships. Beatty opened fire, pumping out 26 rounds of 40 mm and 60 rounds of 20 mm before the plane — fortunately undamaged — was seen to be a P-51.
For the remainder of the 10th, Beatty remained off the invasion beaches. Shell fragments hit Beatty’s main deck and port side when tank landing craft (LCTs) nearby fired on "friendly" planes at 18:47. The threat of further air attacks prompted the destroyer to help to lay a dense smoke screen over the LCTs.
The harassment continued after sunset. A heavy bomb landed about 500 yards astern of the ship, shaking her "considerably," while she observed a nearby dogfight. One of the antagonists shot the other down. The latter crashed in flames, starting a brush fire where it fell. Meanwhile, considerable gunfire from the beach and from the ships off shore criss-crossed the night skies.
Enemy bombing raids ushered in the next day, the 11th, and Beatty took a Messerschmitt Bf 110 under fire at 06:51 as it retired from the scene at high speed after bombing Allied positions on "Dime" beach. At 07:35, SFCP-7A requested Beatty to "stand by for target designation." After receiving the target coordinates, Beatty set to work at 07:38, blasting a railroad and highway junction until 08:11. Her shore party later informed her that the targets had been "tanks and bridges." In just over three hours, Beatty hurled 799 rounds at targets designated by her spotters, inflicting what she suspected was a considerable amount of damage on the enemy positions. When she left the beaches only 192 rounds remained.
When she was relieved by at 11:00, her crew had then been at battle stations since 20:24 on 9 July. Nevertheless, Beatty took station in the antisubmarine screen at 11:40; and she sent her men to general quarters several times during the afternoon due to air attacks on transport and beach areas. Near 19:00, Beatty moved into an area southeast of a minefield to await the formation of a convoy she had been directed to escort and took up antiaircraft and antisubmarine screening patrol south of Scoglitti, crossing the waters between Point della Camerina and Point Braccetto. At 22:24, the enemy began dropping flares and bombs near Scoglitti. Many flares cast their ghostly light over the ships offshore, marking them as targets.
About 22:30, eight flares lit up the waters south of Point Braccetto, followed by two heavy bombs. Beatty, suitably wary, stood towards the transport area around 22:46 and detected the sound of an approaching aircraft. The plane made an unusual amount of noise as it approached the beaches at Scoglitti through the darkness so that the destroyermen could hear it but could not see it. At almost the same time, Beatty suffered hits on her starboard side by what were believed to be machine gun bullets. Beatty’s men suddenly noticed the plane pass across the ship's bow at an altitude of about 40 feet (12 m), "missing the forecastle by a few feet", and turned down the port side of the ship, landing in the water abreast number two stack and about fifty feet (15 m) away. Beatty’s 20 mm guns chattered out two bursts before the plane came to a stop in the swells alongside.
At that point, Beatty’s sailors could see that the "enemy" plane was, in fact, an U.S. Army Air Force Douglas C-47A troop transport. Beatty ceased fire as six flares, directly overhead, lit up the area. The destroyer then rang up flank speed as she pulled away from the sinking C-47A. Experience had taught the destroyermen bombs usually accompanied the illumination.
Beatty’s executive officer, Lt.Comdr. William Outerson, marked the charts with the American plane's position. After the flares had burned out, Beatty returned to the spot and found a rubber boat with all four members of the Douglas’s crew. The plane — attached to the 15th Troop Carrier Squadron — had had quite an evening since leaving Malta with paratroops on board. She had been heavily hit by gunfire from both foe and friend alike. The plane had disgorged her paratroops before she crash-landed at sea; her pilot, Pilot Officer P. J. Paccassi, USAAF, earned praise from Beatty’s commanding officer for the skill with which he had landed his badly damaged aircraft. The large amount of noise Beatty’s sailors had heard had been caused by one of the C-47A's engines disintegrating.
Beatty remained on antisubmarine patrol until 21:00 on 12 July, when she departed the Scoglitti area in the screen for a group of transports returning to Algeria. The warship arrived at Oran on the 15th. Underway for the United States on 21 July, Beatty escorted a convoy to New York where she arrived on 3 August. Following voyage repairs at the New York Navy Yard, she again sailed for the Mediterranean on 21 August.
Action soon followed her return to the Mediterranean. On 2 September, while part of the antisubmarine screen of Section II of Convoy UGF-10, bound for Bizerte, Tunisia, Beatty went to general quarters upon the report of enemy aircraft in the vicinity. None came near enough for Beatty to take them under fire, but one managed to torpedo at around 21:17. Almost immediately, Beatty closed the damaged destroyer and stood guard until relieved by later that night.
While anchored off Bizerte four days later, Beatty received a red alert at 20:30 and again went to general quarters. Intense antiaircraft fire commenced at 20:50, directed toward what later evaluation considered to have been German Junkers Ju 88s. Clearing Bizerte on 7 September, the destroyer joined up with a fast U.S. bound convoy, GUF-10, the next day. Outside of a submarine contact one day out, upon which Beatty dropped depth charges, the voyage homeward proved uneventful. She reached the New York Navy Yard on 21 September for voyage repairs.
Post availability trials and further antisubmarine training were completed by 7 October when Beatty embarked upon her last transatlantic crossing. She screened a convoy to Bangor, Northern Ireland, from 7 October to 17 October, and then joined the screen for Convoy KMF-25A, en route to the Mediterranean. Making rendezvous on schedule, the destroyer took her assigned station in the screen and proceeded into the Mediterranean. Convoy KMF-25A sailed deployed in three columns, with the escorts steaming in a protective circle around the troopships and merchantmen that comprised its core. Beatty was steaming in the rear of the formation at 18:00 on 6 November 1943.
At general quarters, Beatty observed machine gun fire on the port side of the convoy at 18:03. Many small pips appeared on her radar screen in the direction of her sister ship , stationed on that side of the convoy. A minute after observing the gunfire, Beatty noted a large-caliber bomb explode close aboard her colleague — actually a glider bomb which had missed its target. Beatty’s radar picked up five incoming aircraft, two of which passed the port side of the convoy, inside the screen.
The action proved fast and furious. At 18:05, Beatty’s radar picked up two more incoming planes that showed American IFF (Identification, Friend or Foe) signals. Lt.Comdr. Outerson passed the word to his main battery control to pick them up and open fire if they came within range. Control identified one as a Ju 88, but a smoke screen obscured the view over the next few moments, and radar alternatively picked up and lost contacts in the heavy haze.
While Beatty strove to fight her assailants, one German plane managed to close within about 500 yards and dropped a torpedo which struck the ship near frame 124 at about 18:13, only ten minutes after the start of action. The blast jammed mounts 51 and 54 in train, hurled a K-gun and a depth charge stowage rack overboard, bent and jammed the starboard propeller shaft, flooded the after engine room knocking the port shaft out of commission, cut off all electrical power, caused extensive structural damage on the starboard side, flooded a magazine and put the ship in a 12-degree list to port. A quick muster showed 11 men — chiefly from the engine room spaces — missing, one officer and six men injured, and a man at the battle searchlight platform badly, ultimately fatally, burned by steam. One sailor at the starboard depth charge projector who had been blown overboard, was picked up the next morning by .
The torpedo explosion in Beatty’s vitals broke her back at about frame 124. It left the port side of the main deck awash from the break of the forecastle to about mount 54 and only 30 inches of freeboard on the starboard side. As a result, the ship slowly settled aft. While a bucket brigade valiantly attempted to de-water the flooding compartments, Beatty’s sailors jettisoned practically everything that could be cast loose from ready ammunition to her searchlight and smoke generator. Through a mistake of haste, even the towing cable went by the boards as well.
Hopes of saving the ship flickered for the next four hours, as Beatty battled for her life. More and more stations were secured to release men for damage control tasks until only a bridge detail and crews on two 20 mm guns remained at battle stations. Around 19:00, things looked bleak as her sailors placed her boats and rafts in the water. Forty minutes later, Beatty transferred her wounded to . As the list increased, her crew continued abandoning her until around 22:30 when the last group — 70 men — left the ship and reached the rescue vessel, . After breaking in two, Beatty sank at 23:05 on 6 November 1943.
An estimated 25 German aircraft, many equipped with glider-bombs, took part in the raid, and sank two merchantmen in addition to Beatty.