USS Kenneth M. Willett (DE-354) was a John C. Butler-class destroyer escort acquired by the U.S. Navy during World War II. The primary purpose of the destroyer escort was to escort and protect ships in convoy, in addition to other tasks as assigned, such as patrol or radar picket.
Kenneth M. Willett was named in honor of Kenneth Martin Willett who was awarded the Navy Cross for his brave actions in the South Atlantic Ocean. She was launched 7 March 1944 by Consolidated Steel Corp., Orange, Texas; sponsored by Mrs. D. C. Willett, mother of Lt. (j.g.) Willett; and commissioned 19 July 1944 at Orange, Lt. Comdr. J. M. Stuart in command.
After shakedown and training off Bermuda, Kenneth M. Willett served as a training ship in the Chesapeake Bay from 1 to 20 October. Joining CortDiv 82, she departed Norfolk, Virginia, 21 October for duty in the Pacific with the U.S. 7th Fleet. Steaming via the Panama Canal, the Galápagos Islands, and the New Hebrides, she reached Hollandia, New Guinea, 28 November.
Assigned to convoy escort duty between Humboldt Bay, New Guinea, and Leyte Gulf, Philippines, Kenneth M. Willett made seven trips from 13 December 1944 to 25 February 1945. On 1 January 1945, while she screened a convoy to Hollandia, Kenneth H. Willett's guns brought down an attacking enemy torpedo plane close aboard one of the merchant ships.
Upon arriving Leyte Gulf 25 February, the destroyer escort was assigned to patrol and ASW duty. Steaming to Mangarin Bay, Mindoro, 6 March, she made hunter-killer patrols off Mindoro and Luzon, then returned to Leyte Gulf 4 June for escort duty between Leyte and Ulithi, Western Carolines. After two runs to Ulithi, she resumed patrol duty off Mindoro 2 July; and on the 10th she returned to Leyte for a convoy escort run to Okinawa.
Departing 17 July with a convoy of LCI's and LST's, Kenneth M. Willett steamed via Casiguran Bay, Luzon, for the Ryūkyūs. After safely passing through a typhoon 30 to 31 July, the convoy reached Okinawa 7 August. Kenneth M. Willett departed the next day for Leyte. During the next 16 weeks she made convoy runs out of Leyte and Manila to Ulithi, Tokyo, and Shanghai. And from 29 December to 29 January 1946 she operated out of Guiuan Roadstead, Samar, on intermittent weather patrols east of Leyte Gulf.