The USS Cushing was awarded six stars for service in World War II and two stars for service in the Korean Conflict. The Fletcher-class destroyer was named for William Cushing, a Wisconsin native who served the Union during the Civil War. He was best known for destroying the Confederate’s notorious Albemarle steamer.
Action in World War II
Bethlehem Steel Company of Staten Island launched the 376’ vessel in September of 1943. The following May, the Cushing sailed from Norfolk, VA for training in California and Hawaii. The destroyer then escorted a convoy to the Marshall Islands before returning to the west coast for upgrading. In Bremerton, WA the ship received modernized anti-submarine equipment.
The Cushing next traveled to Eniwetok Atoll in the Marshall Islands to prepare for the invasion of Palau. As part of the 5th Fleet, the vessel screened carriers during strikes on Anguar, an island of Palau, and the Philippine Islands. The Cushing next helped carriers to neutralize Japanese bases as the U.S. prepared to invade the Philippines. In mid-December, the ship weathered a typhoon and consequently returned to the Caroline Islands at the end of the month for repairs.
The USS Cushing took to the sea again on New Year’s Day of 1945. The crew first served with Task Force 1 to cover strikes on Formosa and the Philippines and then joined Task Force 58 for operations against Japan’s home islands. The destroyer was critical as a radar picket ship, effectively directing the destruction of numerous Japanese aircraft. The ship then anchored in Sagami Bay, Japan in the late summer of 1945. There the Cushing patrolled the entrance to the harbor, protecting occupation forces.
Action in the Korean War
The Cushing returned to Bremerton on November 20, 1945. The vessel was decommissioned in February of 1947. However, it was re-commissioned in 1951 as the Korean Conflict gathered steam. The Cushing joined the Atlantic Fleet for exercises and then joined Task Force 77 off Korea. From there the ship toured the world, visiting Singapore, Genoa, Algiers, and other ports before returning to New England.
In 1954, the Cushing took part in anti-submarine exercises in the Mediterranean. The next five years were devoted to touring the Far East with the Pacific Fleet. The Cushing guarded airplanes, patrolled the Taiwan Straits during a Communist Chinese threat, and made friendly stops at world ports to promote President Eisenhower’s People to People program.
The USS Cushing was decommissioned in 1960 and was placed in reserve in Norfolk, Virginia.
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.