The USS Aylwin was a Farragut-class naval destroyer built in 1933 in the Philadelphia Navy Yard and commissioned to the United States Navy by General James Farley on March 1, 1935. The USS Aylwin began its service by traveling to the Naval Torpedo Station in Newport, R.I., receiving eight torpedo warheads. The destroyer was named for Lieutenant John Cushing Aylwin.
Throughout her first year of service, the Aylwin travaled throughout Europe, returned home to Philadelphia for repairs and conducted trials until October 1. She then met up with the USS Hull DD-350 and sailed south to Cuba to drop off cargo. She then made her way to the Pacific via the Panama Canal, eventually ending up in San Diego, California for peacetime drills that included flotilla tactics, torpedo training, and sound training runs.
After being repaired in the Mare Island Navy Yard in February of 1936, the USS Aylwin was deployed to several locations in the Pacific, including the west coast of Central America near the Panama Canal, Peru, Washington state, Oregon, Hawaii and San Diego, taking part in peacetime mission training until 1941.
In March of 1941, the USS Aylwin suffered damage during a nighttime tactical exercise. The USS Farragut collided with the ship, nearly severing the ship’s bow and causing a serious fire that engulfed most of the ship by the time it was put out with the aid of four other ships. After the accident, the ship was towed back to Pearl Harbor for repairs.
Action in World War II
On December 7, 1941, the USS Aylwin was one of the ships damaged during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor when a bomb exploded just 75 yards off her starboard bow. The ship returned to Pearl Harbor for repairs to her damaged propeller on December 11, after patrolling for enemy submarines after the attack.
In mid-December, the USS Aylwin was deployed as part of the Lexington task force responsible for relieving Wake Island. Along with the USS Aylwin, the Lexington task force was made up of the cruisers, Chicago, Indianapolis and Portland, the destroyers, Phelps, Dewey and Worden, and the oiler Neosho.
In 1942, the Lexington task force continued when the USS Aylwin was responsible for plane guard duties for the Lexington as she headed toward New Guinea. On June 4, the Aylwin participated in the Battle of Midway. Later in 1942, the ship joined other cruisers and destroyers for two escort runs to Women’s Bay, Kodiak Island, Alaska. Later in August, the ship was deployed to cross the Pacific Ocean when Marines went ashore on Guadalcanal, Tulagi and Gavutu. After the ship returned to Pearl Harbor for repairs in late 1942, she was quickly deployed back to Alaska for missions until the end of that year.
Continuing on from her stationing at Dutch Harbor, the Aylwin continued to conduct escort missions around the Aleutians for the first few months of 1943. Over the rest of the year, the destroyer participated in the shelling of Kiska, in addition to screening carriers during the operations to take the Gilbert Islands. After early repairs in 1944, the Aylwin took part in operations in the Marshall Islands, providing support and helping drive off enemy planes. The ship later sailed to the Marianas Islands, working with the Northern Bombardment Unit that shelled enemies on the northern coast of Saipan. She conducted several other screenings as the US bombarded other island locations throughout the year, eventually meeting with a typhoon that only caused a leak in her engine room. However, the USS Hull, Monaghan and Spence, which were also in the path of the typhoon, did not survive the storm and sank, taking with them many American soldiers.
In 1945 the destroyer was part of a mission in the Battle of Iwo Jima, later enduring yet another typhoon. The destroyer conducted further search, rescue and escort duties that year before heading back to the U.S. as the war came to an end.
After the War
The USS Aylwin reached New York City on September 25, 1945 and was decommissioned at the New York Navy Yard on October 16, 1945. At the end of her life the USS Aylwin had received 13 battle stars for her service in World War II.
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.