The USS John D. Ford, a Clemson class destroyer, was laid down on November 11, 1919, in Philadelphia and launched on September 2, 1920. The ship was sponsored by Miss F. Faith Ford, daughter of Rear Admiral John D. Ford. The destroyer was commissioned on December 30 under the temporary command of Lt. Lester T. Forbes. He was succeeded by Lieutenant Commander Charles A. Pownall, who assumed command on 16 July 1921.
Service in the Pacific
The John D. Ford began its career doing exercises in the Caribbean. On June 20, 1922, the destroyer was assigned to the Asiatic Fleet. To reach her destination from the U.S. east coast, the ship steamed through the Mediterranean, Suez Canal and Indian Ocean to arrive at Manila, Philippines, on August 21.
Before World War II, the John D. Ford spent most of her time patrolling the waters around China and Japan. Here the ship was crucial to helping establish air bases around the Japanese islands of Kurile and Hokkaido to enable the U.S. Army Air Service pioneer its first global flight. The John D. Ford also patrolled the waters near China during the civil unrest in the late 1920s, protecting ships from pirates.
Action in World War II
After the attack on Pearl Harbor, the John D. Ford prepared for action with destroyer Division 59. The destroyer was based at Cavite, and the base was destroyed in a Japanese attack shortly after the attack on Pearl Harbor. The John D. Ford left Cavite the same day to make its way toward Java. On January 24, 1942, the John D. Ford was part of a four destroyer battle group that undertook a surprise attack on the Japanese Borneo invasion group. The ship was hit during the battle, but still managed to sink three enemy ships.
Following this battle, the John D. Ford was to become an important ship in the Battle of Java on February 27, 1942. After this historical battle, the John D. Ford went on to serve on both the west and east cost of the United States. The ship was refitted in Norfolk on June 30, 1945, and reclassified as AG-119.
After the War
The ship was decommissioned in November of 1945 and struck from the Naval Fleet later in the same moth. The ship was eventually sold for scrap in 1947. The USS John D. Ford was awarded the Presidential Unit Citation for the Battle of Java and four Battle Stars for WWII 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.