The USS Dewey was named after Admiral George Dewey, the hero of the Battle of Manila Bay. It was a 1,700 ton Farragut-class destroyer built by Bath Ironworks, Maine and commissioned on October 4, 1934. Following two training cruises it embarked on April 1, 1935 for San Diego, California and operated out of that port for the next six years.
Action in World War II
The Dewey saw extensive action during World War II, beginning with the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. It was undergoing overhaul and immediately returned fire. It was underway by that afternoon, patrolling Hawaiian waters. It joined Task Force 11 in February 1942 for a planned attack on Rabaul. The strike was called off when the ships were sighted by enemy scout planes and attacked by 18 Japanese bombers. The Dewey assisted in downing several of the planes. At the Battle of Coral Sea in April, the destroyer provided anti-aircraft cover for the carrier, the USS Lexington. When the Lexington was hit and subsequently abandoned, the Dewey picked up 112 survivors. It screened for the oiler, the USS Platte, during the Battle of Midway that June.
Deployed next to the Solomons, the Dewey bombarded Guadalcanal on August 7 in preparation for the invasion. It was attacked by dive bombers on the first day of the invasion, but rescued 40 survivors of the USS George F. Elliot which had been heavily damaged. The Dewey remained in the Solomons until September when it steamed to San Francisco for overhaul. In December, it headed for the Aleutians, operating there until December 1943.
Next the Dewey deployed to Kwajalein, arriving in January 1944. It performed escort duty, supplied bombardment support and screened carriers in several operations in Truk, Tinian Saipan, the Battle of the Philippine Sea, and the invasion of Guam. It returned to Puget Sound on July 28 for a brief overhaul.
The destroyer joined the logistics group for the 3rd Fleet on October 10, screening ships of the group in preparation for the invasion of the Philippines. A typhoon struck the fleet on December 18 and the Dewey’s number one stack was torn off. It put into Ulithi for repairs and rejoined the fleet for the invasion of Iwo Jima. It screened oilers during the Okinawa operation before leaving the theater on August 21, 1945. It was awarded 13 Battle Stars. The Dewey was decommissioned at Brooklyn Navy Yard on October 19, 1945.
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.