The USS Halford (DD-480) was named for Lieutenant William Halford, whose bravery rescued the USS Saginaw in 1871 and earned him the Medal of Honor. The Halford hit the water on October 29, 1942. She received her commission on April 10, 1943 under Lieutenant Commander G. N. Johansen and served intensively throughout World War II.
Action in World War II
For the Halford’s first deployment, in July of 1943, she was specially rigged to carry scout planes in the South Pacific. However, it proved unfeasible for smaller ships to carry planes, so the ship was refitted with torpedo tubes. The Fletcher-class destroyer took off again for Pearl Harbor on December 6, 1943. Escort duties led to Guadalcanal where she took charge of antisubmarine screens.
The Halford became flagship for Admiral T. S. “Ping” Wilkerson, transporting a New Zealand division to Barahun Island on February 15, 1944. She was next assigned to a New Ireland destroyer squadron, joining Bennett in action that sank two coastal ships. The Halford performed escort runs to the Solomon Islands in the spring of 1944, just before the Marianas Campaign. She spent 75 days at sea during the bombardment phase of Operation Forager.
The Halford joined the Battle of the Philippine Sea on June 17. By June 18, enemy losses totaled 395 carrier planes, 31 floatplanes, and three carriers. She supported assault troops and demolition units off Guam, and took part in the attacks on Anguar Island in September. She was on hand for advance bombardments on Leyte Island and participated in the Battle of Suriago Strait from October 24-25 – only one Japanese destroyer survived. After the Battle of Leyte Gulf, Halford shuttled between Third Fleet operations and escort missions. She took part in the assault on San Fernando Harbor and Rosario on January 11-12, 1945.
After accidentally ramming a friendly ship in Saipan Harbor on Valentine’s Day, 1945, the Halford went to Mare Island for repair. She left San Diego on May 27 for escort duties in the Marshall Islands. She then met occupation forces in Japan on September 12.
After the War
Via Adak, Kodiak and Juneau, the USS Halford landed in Bremerton, Washington, and began inactivation overhaul on November 4, 1945. She returned to San Diego with the Pacific Reserve Fleet when she was decommissioned on May 15, 1946, and remained berthed there until removed from the Naval Register on May 1, 1968. Two years later she was sold for scrap. The U.S. Navy recognized the Halford’s World War II service with 13 battle stars.
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.