The USS John D. Henley DD-553 was named after John Dandridge Henley (1781-1835). She was constructed and laid down by the Gulf Shipbuilding Company in Chickasaw, Alabama, on July 21, 1941. Sponsored by Miss Shelah Keith, who was the great-great-great granddaughter of Captain John D. Henley, she was launched on November 15, 1942. She was put into commission February 2, 1944, with Commander C. H. Smith chosen to captain her.
Action in World War II
She did her shakedown near Bermuda, then trained briefly in Hawaii and started duty as an escort. She took fleet oilers to Majuro, and then came back to Pearl Harbor on May 17. After 10 days she once again headed to Majuro, where she joined a refueling task group as the flagship headed to the fleet involved with the occupation and capture of Tinian and Saipan in the Marianas. Since they were at-sea for such a long time, it was inevitable that they would be attacked, and they ware June 17 and 18. On the August 14, the fleet made their way back to Eniwetok.
When the Navy decided to move into the Paulus, the John D. Henley became the flagship for Task Group 30.8. Her refueling group left Manus on September 1 to help during the attack and capture of Peleliu. Her group stayed around in Ulithi until late in November, refueling the forces attacking the Philippines.
The John D. Henley was then deployed to Guam. She operated out of the Marianas and Marshalls as a patrol and escort. Soon she was called away to train to be a screen for Underwater Demolition Teams in Ulithi. Next, on February 14, 1945, she made her way to Iwo Jima. After helping with the pre-battle attacks, she was assigned duties as a radar picket, screener and provider of gun support during the bloody battle ashore. The next battle would take place in Okinawa, and she returned to Ulithi to get ready for this.
The John D. Henley took off for Okinawa on March 21. This was to be the biggest amphibious battle of the war and also the last. She was assigned to screen light carriers, whose planes supported soldiers that were fighting on the ground. She continued to guard her carriers while taking fire from planes until June 24. She was then sent to the Leyte Gulf. On July 1, she was sent to participate in mine-sweeping in Okinawa. The next month, she was sent to Buckner Bay where she remained until the end of the war on August 15.
After the War
On the August 24, she was assigned to air and sea rescue off the coast of Japan. When she was done with this assignment, she took off for California and arrived on September 24 in San Francisco. The USS John D. Henley was repaired and then put out of commission on April 30th, 1946. She was put in reserve, where she remained until being stricken from the Naval Register in 1968 and sold for scrap two years later. She was awarded six battle stars for service during the war.
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.