Fletcher-class destroyer USS Eaton, named after Army officer William Eaton, was commissioned in December of 1942. In February of 1943, it left its port in Maine to head to the Pacific. It arrived at Efate, New Hebrides in March where it patrolled with Cruiser Division 12 to the Solomons and back, as well as leading to Guadalcanal. It supported several landings at its new port in Port Purvis, Florida Island before rejoining the Cruiser Division it had been working with previously in September.
Action in World War II
The Eaton took a brief trip to Auckland before serving as the flagship for landings on Treasury Island, after which it led two minelayers through the Bougainville Straits in November and aided the USS Denver after a damaging battle in Empress Augusta Bay. It also participated in several landings in February and March of 1944.
That May, the Eaton sailed for the Marshalls, docking at Majuro to prepare for the bombardment of Kusaie Island in the Carolines with the USS Greiner and the USS Sanders. It provided fire support against Saipan and Tinain and in August, it headed for overhaul at Mare Island, where it stayed for a few months before joining the covering force for the Leyte operation at Leyte Gulf in November; it then headed out to cover up for the Mindoro landings the next month. It worked some transport missions in early 1945 before participating in minesweeping operations in June and August in the midst of continuing its duties in the liberation of the Philippines.
In September of 1945, the crew of the Eaton boarded five Japanese vessels they intercepted. Afterwards, the Eaton joined the South China Force and was based in Hong Kong, although it visited many ports along the coast. It stayed in Hong Kong until it sailed back to Charleston, where it was placed in reserve in June of 1946.
After the War
In January of 1951 it was re-commissioned and reclassified. It then joined the Escort Division 22 in May, where it operated in the Caribbean, the Mediterranean, and around the coast of Europe, taking part in exercises and several good will tours of ports for six years. It also participated in an African cruise in 1957, as well as several to the Mediterranean and to Norfolk. It became a flagship of Destroyer Squadron 28 in the early 1960s before serving in Japan later that decade. In 1969, the Eaton was decommissioned and sunken in a practice exercise off the coast of Norfolk.
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.