The Charles F. Hughes was named after the Chief of Naval Operations Charles Frederick Hughes who commanded New York during World War I. The destroyer began its career on May 16, 1940, launched by Puget Sound Navy Yard, Bremerton, Washington and sponsored by Mrs. C.F. Hughes. It was commissioned on September 5 with Lieutenant Commander G.L. Menocal in command. It was chosen to assist in the US Navy’s support of Britain after its training operations during April 1941. Subsequently, the Charles F. Hughes joined up with other American destroyers to provide convoy escort in the western Atlantic.
Action in World War II
During the war, many survivors from a sunken merchant ship were rescued by the Charles F. Hughes. Initially, fourteen survivors, of which four were American Red Cross nurses, were saved from a torpedoed Norwegian freighter during the Marine task of occupying Iceland in July 1941. The incident was followed by the rescue of seven men from a lifeboat on October 16.
The ship was assigned to guard merchant shipping in coastal convoys, Caribbean sailings, and the mid-ocean meeting points to Iceland and New York during the beginning of the war. The destroyer crossed the Atlantic in a convoy to Belfast North Ireland during May 1942 and escorted the first reinforcement convoy for the North African landings to Casablanca in November.
The major contribution of Charles F. Hughes was support during the invasion of southern France on July 30, 1944 in Naples, after returning to antisubmarine patrol and escort duties in the western Mediterranean. Two typical German E-boats penetrating the screen were forced to the beach and a third one was sunken by gunfire during combat. Resuming patrol duties throughout the western Mediterranean and providing call-fire support off Monaco, the Charles F. Hughes returned to Brooklyn for overhaul on January 12, 1945 and was decommissioned on March 18, 1946.
After the War
She was placed out of commission in March 1946 and catalogued as a reserve ship in Charleston, South Carolina. For World War II service the Charles F. Hughes received four battle stars. In 1969, she was struck from the Naval Register and sunk as a target off the Virginia coast.
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.