The USS Caldwell, a Benson-class destroyer built in San Francisco, California, was named in honor of Lieutenant James R. Caldwell, who served at Tripoli and was killed in action. The 1,620-ton destroyer was commissioned in June of 1942.
Action in World War II
The Caldwell began by serving in the Pacific Ocean in September of 1942. She initially escorted convoys and combat forces in the Aleutians campaign. She also helped with the amphibious assault onto Attu in May of the 1943. She then steamed south in September of 1943 to join in the aircraft carrier raids on Tarawa and Wake Islands. In November, she screened landing ships for the invasion of Makin Island, which is located in the Gilbert Island chain.
During the Kwajalein operation in January and February of 1944, the Caldwell was back to her normal duty of escorting aircraft carriers. That spring she would participate in the fast carriers’ strikes on the Japanese bases that were present in the region of New Guinea and the central Pacific Ocean. For most of the remainder of 1944, she patrolled and escorted in and around the Marshall Islands, later moving up to the Philippines area.
However, the Caldwell could not avoid damage during the war. While helping with the Ormoc Bay landings on December 12, 1944, she was seriously damaged by a suicide plane attack, losing 33 of her crew and seeing many more injured.
The suicide attack was so severe that the Caldwell required repairs in San Francisco, not returning to combat again until April of 1945. Dispatched to multiple escort missions and aiding with the invasion forces onto the Borneo Islands, she was later damaged again, this time, by a mine. The Caldwell was finishing up repairs when the war came to an end in August.
After the war
For the first two months after the war, Caldwell escorted landing craft in the Western Pacific, then heading back to the east coast of the United States. She was decommissioned in 1946 and placed into the Atlantic Reserve Fleet. She remained here for two decades before being sold as scrap in November of 1966.
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.