The USS Callaghan was built in San Pedro, California in August of 1943. The Fletcher-class destroyer was sponsored by the widow of Daniel Judson Callaghan, the ship’s namesake who was a Rear Admiral killed in 1942 at the Battle of Guadalcanal. The ship was named in his honor and immediately deployed to the Pacific.
Action in World War II
In February of 1944, the ship sailed to the west coast to join the 5th Fleet, protecting the fleet from air strikes. This mission extended from the end of March until the beginning of April of 1944. The ship later supported the Hollandia operation, acting as a picket ship during air raids and protecting tankers.
In the summer of 1944, the Callaghan aided in the attacks and invasions in the South Pacific region. The Callaghan was instrumental in helping to stave off a Japanese air raid on June 17 and was responsible for shooting down three Japanese planes. In late summer of 1944, the Callaghan was deployed as an escort for ships responsible for air raids in the area of the Philippines and in the raid on Palaus.
In mid October of 1944, the Callaghan provided support to the carriers responsible for neutralizing the airfields in Formosa and Okinawa. On October 14, 1944 the Callaghan was responsible for aiding in shooting down several enemy planes. Later, the Callaghan’s presence in Leyte aided in air power during the battle for the Gulf of Leyte. The destroyer continued to offer support to the operations in the Philippine Islands from the end of 1944 until early 1945.
In early 1945, the Callaghan was sent to Japan to aid in attacks on Iwo Jima, Tokyo and Okinawa. While serving in Japan, the Callaghan sunk a Japanese ship on February 1945. In March of 1945, the Callaghan provided fire support off the coast of Okinawa. Here the ship provided support to the troops, as well as successfully sinking a Japanese submarine.
In July 1945, the Callaghan attempted to drive off a Japanese suicide plane, but the plane returned to the area undetected and hit the deck of the Callaghan. The explosion caused one of the ship’s bombs to destroy an engine room. The USS Callaghan became engulfed in flames, making aid from nearby ships impossible. The ship flooded and sank on July 28, 1945, suffering the loss of 47 crewmembers.
For her service in World War II, the Callaghan was awarded eight battle stars.
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.