USS Claxton DD 571 (Z-4)
Action in World War II
The USS Claxton was launched in April of 1942 and was commissioned in December of that year. It patrolled briefly in the Maine area, preparing for a possible battle with the German battleship the Von Tirpitz. Afterward, it escorted a convoy to Casablanca and left there for the Pacific Ocean for duty with the fleet present there.
After completing some training, the Claxton was sent to provide cover for the Rendova landings. It then joined Destroyer Squadron 23 for operations in the area.
During the Battle of Empress Augusta Bay, the Claxton and its squadron turned back a force of four cruisers and six destroyers. Two of those Japanese ships were sunken and four of them were damaged in this battle. The Claxton screened for the Thatcher and Foote, destroyers that were damaged in the fighting. In November, the Claxton saw action again as it and four other destroyers intercepted Japanese ships trying to evacuate forces off of Rabaul.
The Claxton was damaged while bombarding a surface target, leading the injury of fifteen troops. It completed its mission using its forward guns, and then returned to the West Coast to have repairs made. It was an escort in August of 1944 during the Palaus invasion.
The Claxton was patrolling on the Leyte Gulf, supporting shore forces, when it was struck by a suicide bomber. All of the living spaces were flooded, five crewmen killed and twenty three more wounded, but the Claxton still rescued sailors from the sinking USS Abner Read. It was repaired and provided fire support for more landings in the Philippines.
The destroyer left its post in September of 1945 and sailed for Washington, D.C. arriving in October. It was overhauled in New York and placed into the reserve fleet in 1946. The Claxton was loaned to the Federal Republic of Germany and served as ship Z-4 for the rest of its career.
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.