The USS Fitch (DD-462) was named for Commander LeRoy Fitch, who commanded the steamer ship USS Moose in the Union Mississippi Squadron during the Civil War. He tracked the famous raider General J.H. Morgan of the Confederate States of America.
Action in World War II
The Fitch was originally commissioned on February 3, 1942, under the command of Lieutenant Commander H. Crommelin. Her first mission occurred later that year. She was assigned to escort the USS Ranger to the Gold Coast to deliver Army planes. She then began preparations for an attack on North Africa.
In November she participated in landings at Fedhala, French Morocco, and protected carriers as their planes captured a base at Lyautey. She then returned home to cruise the U.S. coast to Panama for the remainder of the year. 1943 saw her escorting the Ranger once again through North African attacks, and later protecting North Atlantic shipping convoys. Towards the end of that same year, she transported the Secretary of the Navy Frank Knox and Admiral Harold. R. Stark to Scapa Flow in Scotland. While there she joined forces with the Ranger once again, this time to attack the German troops near Bodo, Norway.
In April of 1944 the Fitch cruised to Belfast, Norway, to prepare for the Normandy invasion. On the morning of the attack she journeyed forward in an attempt to lure out and stop German batteries. Her attack was successful and she was also able to rescue several survivors of mined ships. After the invasion she cruised to Taranto, Italy, to aid in the invasion of southern France. There the Fitch escorted convoys and was later made into a high speed mine sweeper. Due to her effectiveness as a minesweeper, she was sent to Tokyo Bay in 1945 in that capacity. During her tour there she was able to be present for the official surrender ceremony on September 2.
After the War
After returning to the U.S. in 1946, the Fitch served as a transporter of minesweepers along the northern coast and later led training exercises in minesweeping. In 1955 she took part in testing in the Caribbean for the Operational Development Force. She was finally decommissioned on February 24, 1956, and placed in reserve, where she would remain until being struck from the Naval Register in 1971 and sunk as a target two years later. In the end she received five battle stars for her 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.