The USS Cotten was a 2,050-ton Fletcher-class destroyer. The ship was constructed in Kearny, New Jersey, commissioned in July of 1943, and launched across the Pacific in October of 1943 to join the battle against Japan. Before being sold for scrap in 1975, the ship escorted aircraft carriers during World War II and the Korean War.
Action in World War II
The Cotten first saw war in November 1943. The destroyer escorted aircraft carriers during the assault on a Japanese base on the Gilbert Islands. Early the next year, the Cotten joined the Fifth Fleet’s aircraft carriers during campaigns to seize Japanese bases in New Guinea and the Marshall Islands, as well as during raids on Japanese cargo facilities in the Caroline Islands and Palau. In early May, the vessel escorted the carriers through the Battle of the Philippine Sea, through landings on the Marianas Islands, and during their strikes on targets in the central Pacific.
From September 1944 to January 1945, the destroyer participated in the Battle of Leyte Gulf and worked with aircraft carriers as they attacked the Asian mainland, the Palaus Islands, Okinawa, Formosa, and the Philippines. The USS Cotten then moved to Iwo Jima, escorting aircraft carriers and providing gunfire support.
After the War
The ship then rested for a refit on the western coast of the U.S. By the time the destroyer returned to the western Pacific, the peace process had begun. The Cotten remained in the former war zone until December of 1945 and reached California by January of 1946. The ship was decommissioned in July and was stored in Charleston, South Caroline for five years.
Action in the Korean War
The Cotten was re-commissioned in early July of 1951 for use in the Korean War. The ship served in the Atlantic until May of 1953 and then circumnavigated the globe, eventually spending several months in the western Pacific and off the coast of Korea. The ship returned to the U.S. east coast in early 1954 but was deployed to the Mediterranean Sea in 1955. The ship also served in the Mediterranean, the Persian Gulf, and other points off North Africa during 1957 and 1959.
The USS Cotten was again decommissioned in May 1960. The destroyer remained in the Navy’s Reserve Fleet until December of 1974 and was sold for scrapping in July 1975.
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.