USS Cushing, built by the Puget Sound Navy Yard, was launched on the last day of 1935 and sponsored by Miss K.A. Cushing. This Mahan-class destroyer was commissioned in August of 1936. It was named after Commander William B. Cushing, who was a naval hero of the Civil War.
It reported to the Pacific Fleet. Most of its assignments were in the Pacific doing training exercise and peacetime patrols for the first five years of operation. It participated in the famous search for Amelia Earhart in July of 1937 in the Hawaiian Islands and at Howland Island.
Action in World War II
The Cushing was being overhauled when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. During the first months of the war it served as an escort for convoys between Hawaii and the U.S. west coast. It also patrolled the waters of the Midway Islands and worked with the residual U.S. Pacific Fleet battleship force off the west coast. It was sent to Guadalcanal in the south Pacific in 1942. During the Battle of the Santa Cruz Islands in October, it supported the aircraft carrier, the Enterprise.
On November 12, 1942, it was involved in the first night of the Naval Battle of Guadalcanal. It took on several Japanese ships. It ended up being hit and the crewmen were forced to go overboard. About 70 men were listed as killed or missing, with many wounded. Survivors were rescued the following morning. The Cushing was afloat until the 13th of November when a magazine exploded, causing it to sink.
In 1991 and 1992 the wreck of the Cushing was located and inspected. It sits off the southeast coast of Savo Island, on the sea floor of Iron Bottom Sound. Most of the hull is intact but its forward superstructure is collapsed and its upperworks are largely damaged. Three battle stars were awarded to the Cushing for its service in World War II.
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.