Built in Kearny, N.J. and commissioned on January 26, 1944, the USS Allen M. Sumner DD-692 was the first of a new class of 2,000 ton, six-gun destroyers. Following shakedown, Sumner spent several months in 1944 in training operations off the East Coast. On August 12, she departed for Hawaii, arriving on September 14 to begin five weeks of exercises. Leaving Pearl Harbor on October 23 in the company of USS North Carolina, Sumner headed west to join the Fast Carrier Task Force.
Action in World War II
After participating in carrier air raids against Yap Island, she headed to San Pedro Bay, Philippines, putting in on the 29th. She spent the ensuing weeks patrolling Leyte Gulf, encountering her first significant action on the evening of December 2, 1944. Sumner, steaming with the USS Moale and USS Cooper, came under attack from Japanese bombers. A near miss caused shrapnel damage and a fire, wounding one officer and twelve sailors. Sumner then returned to San Pedro Bay for repairs. Back at sea on December 12, she continued support operations around the Philippines.
During minesweeping evolutions on January 6, 1945, Sumner was hit by a kamikaze rear of the aft smokestack, killing 14 and wounding 19. She remained in action until January 14, and then headed back to Hunter’s Point, California for repairs. When that work was completed, Sumner was assigned training duty for three weeks. In mid-July, 1945, she steamed for Hawaii, arriving later that month. She was en route back to the war zone when the Japanese surrendered. Following the war, Sumner served as a training ship, until 1949 when she was reassigned to the Atlantic Fleet.
Action in the Korean War
In April 1953, the Sumner was assigned duty as plane guard and anti-submarine screener for carriers off the coast of Korea. After the Armistice was signed, she headed back to Norfolk via the Panama Canal. During the next eight years she deployed to the Mediterranean and the Indian Ocean.
Action in the Vietnam War
Sumner underwent overhaul and in October 1962, she served as part of the naval quarantine during the Cuban Missile Crisis. She then resumed normal operations out of Mayport, Florida until called to duty in the Vietnam Theater in February 1967. While in Vietnamese waters, Sumner participated in Operations “Seadragon” and “Bear Charger,” providing ship screening and shore bombardment. The Sumner returned to Mayport in September 1971. She resumed normal Fleet Operations until being decommissioned on August 15, 1973 and sold for scrapping.
She has the distinction of winning Battle Stars in three conflicts: WW II, Korea and Vietnam.
Asbestos in Navy ships
Although an essential component of the naval fleet, especially during World War II, naval destroyers also pose a lasting health risk to soldiers serving on them. Unfortunately, products containing asbestos were common, especially on older ships, because of the material’s high resistance to heat and fire. Despite its value as an insulator, asbestos fiber intake can lead to several serious health consequences, including mesothelioma, a devastating cancer without cure. Current and former military personnel who came into contact with these ships should seek immediate medical attention in order to detect possible health consequences associated with asbestos exposure.