The naval vessel, the USS Conyngham, was designed as a 1,500-ton Mahan class destroyer. It was originally built at the Boston Navy Yard, in Charlestown, Massachusetts, and was commissioned in November of 1936.
In the spring of 1937, its maiden cruise took it through Northern European waters, and then to the Pacific later that year. During the late 1930’s into the early 1940’s, it performed regular training maneuvers with the U.S. Fleet. In 1941, it traveled briefly to Australia, before going to Pearl Harbor later that year. It stayed there the remainder of the year, until the surprise attack on December 7, 1941 that began the Pacific War.
Action in World War II
The Conyngham returned fire on the enemy aircraft and left Pearl Harbor later that day to begin its four years of wartime operations. It participated in many patrols in the Hawaii area and then a brief refitting on the west coast. The Conyngham escorted ships throughout the U.S. waters and the South Pacific until October 1942. It was called in for duty again in June, in order to serve with the U.S. Fleet’s aircraft carriers during the Battle of Midway.
It was again called to active duty in late October during the Battle of the Santa Cruz Islands. During the following month of November, the Conyngham was to fire its five-inch guns against the Japanese during the Guadalcanal Campaign.
It sustained damages during this bombardment, and returned to Pearl Harbor where it received much needed repairs. By February of 1943, it had returned to action again, at the island of Guadalcanal, to launch an offensive against the Japanese. The Conyngham escorted and patrolled routes between the US, Australia, and New Zealand.
Late in 1943 it began operations off New Guinea, then bombardments in the Trobriand Islands in July, Finschhafen and Lae in August and September, and New Britain late in 1943 . The Conyngham escorted battleships during the June-August 1944 attack on the Marianas, often firing its own guns in support missions.
The Conyngham was decommissioned and sunken as a target off the Californian coast in 1948.
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.