USS Spence (DD-512), a Fletcher class destroyer, was laid down on 18 May 1942 by the Bath Iron Works, Bath, Maine; launched on 27 October 1942; sponsored by Mrs. Eben Learned; and commissioned on 8 January 1943, Lieutenant Commander H. J. Armstrong in command. The ship was named for Robert T. Spence, superintendent of the construction of USS Ontario (1813), and captain of USS Cyane (1815).
Spence conducted her shakedown cruise out of Guantanamo Bay from 8 to 28 February. She then served as an escort in the Atlantic and Caribbean and had convoy duty in the Casablanca area in April. She was routed to the west coast and, on 25 July, got underway from San Francisco for Pearl Harbor, to serve in the Pacific against the Japanese in World War II.