The USS Howard (DD-179) was named in honor of Charles W. Howard. Charles W. Howard was a volunteer for the Navy during the time of American Civil War, serving on the USS New Ironsides. The Union Iron Works of San Francisco launched the Howard on April 26, 1919. Marion Filmer sponsored the Howard and on January 29, 1920, the destroyer was commissioned at Mare Island, California, under Commander L. M. Stewart.
The Howard left San Francisco for San Diego to join the Pacific Destroyer Force. Then, her training complete, she sailed for Topolobampo, Mexico. She returned to the Pacific Destroyer force in San Diego to complete battle practice and various other exercises. In 1922, the Howard was decommissioned, but was recommissioned in 1940 and converted to a minesweeper. She left San Diego and arrived in Norfolk on October 29, but left a few weeks later for the Caribbean. In May of 1941, the Howard returned to Norfolk and remained there until the attack on Pearl Harbor in December.
Action in World War II
The Howard acted as an escort until October of the following year. Then, she became a part of Admiral Hewitt’s Task Force at Norfolk. As a member of Hewitt’s Western Naval Task Force, she acted as minesweeper and as a screener. During the battle of Casablanca, she performed screening duties for the cruiser Augusta as she fought the Jean Bart, a French battleship. Then, the Howard returned to Norfolk.
During 1942, the Howard protected Allied ships, particularly oil tankers, from attacks in the Atlantic and Caribbean. When the war effort against Japan increased, the ship was transferred to the western Pacific. Following several repairs, she began to escort ships to Majuro and Pearl Harbor. She later joined Admiral Turner’s task force, sweeping minefields and conducting patrols, after which she was relocated to the Philippines. She arrived in Leyte Gulf on October 17 to complete minesweeping duties, paving the way for the battle which would prove to be a decisive victory for the U.S. Naval forces.
After the War
After further sweeps around Iwo Jima, the Howard returned to Pearl Harbor, allowing newer ships to take her place. She acted as an escort for submarines in Hawaii and a plane guard before returning to the mainland United States. She arrived in Philadelphia on November 2, and was decommissioned on December 30, 1945. Her remains were sold to Northern Metals Company in Philadelphia for scrap the following year. In all, the USS Howard received six battle stars for World War II service.
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.