The second ship to honor Commodore John Hazelwood of the American Continental Navy, the USS Hazelwood (DD-531) was built by Bethlehem Shipbuilding Corporation. She was launched in November 20, 1942 and was commissioned in June 18, 1943.
The Fletcher-class destroyer weighed a hefty 2,050 tons and was measured at 376 and a half feet. She had an incredible range of 6,500 nautical miles when cruising at 15 knots. She also had a maximum speed of 35 knots. Typical of wartime destroyers, the Hazelwood was a formidable vessel. She was armed with 5”/38 caliber guns, six 0.50” machine guns and six 20 mm anti-aircraft guns. Her arsenal also included ten 21” torpedo tubes and two depth charge tracks.
Action in World War II
The Hazelwood reached Pearl Harbor on September 9, 1943. She sailed with Navy carriers that were preparing to launch aircraft strikes against Japanese targets in Tawara Atoll. She returned to Pearl Harbor and trained for the amphibious drive against Japan. She took part in the invasion force of Majuro and Kwajalein Atolls, and also bombarded enemy fortifications in Ungalabu Harbor and New Ireland.
The ship also took part in the Philippine liberation. In the Battle of Leyte Gulf, the Americans all but destroyed the once-vaunted Imperial Fleet and took out scores of Japanese aircraft. During the melee, the Hazelwood and her crew were credited for taking out two kamikazes and damaging several others.
The ship continued to patrol the waters of Leyte until she was assigned to link up with the fast carrier strike force headed for more Japanese positions in Taiwan, Okinawa, the Ryukyu Islands and the Chinese coast. After a successfully taking out these targets, the Hazelwood sailed with yet another mobile carrier task force. She and the other destroyers provided the all the protection the carriers needed while aircraft targeting key Japanese strongholds were launched.
After the War
For all her efforts, the USS Hazelwood earned an impressive ten battle stars. After World War II was over, she participated in the Korean War and performed patrols in the Caribbean around the time of the Cuban Missile Crisis. She was decommissioned on March 19, 1965, and placed on the Atlantic Reserve Fleet. She was then removed from the Naval Vessel Register on December 1, 1974. She was eventually sold and then scrapped in 1976.
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.