The USS John R. Craig was a Gearing-class destroyer that won four battle stars for service in the Korean Conflict. The vessel was named for Commander John Rich Craig, a World War II hero who lost his life during war patrol in the South Pacific. The 376-foot vessel was constructed in Orange, Texas in 1944 and was launched in 1945. With Commander L. G. Cornwell in the lead, the John R. Craig went through shakedown in the Caribbean Sea before joining the 7th Fleet in San Diego. From 1945 until early 1951, the destroyer alternated between trainings along the California coast and deployments in the Far East.
Action in Korea and Vietnam
With the intensification of the Korean Conflict, the John R. Craig headed for the Korean Sea in February of 1951 to join Task Force 77. The destroyer screened during air strikes on the enemy’s land bases. She played a crucial role in the bombardment of the Wonsan naval base in northern Korea and then remained off the coast until hostilities ceased.
Following the Korean Conflict, the destroyer assumed peacekeeping duty in waters south of the 38th parallel. Missions included evacuating Chinese nationalists from the Tachen Islands, working with the Japanese Self Defense Force, and training with the Chinese Nationalist Navy. The ship also returned home annually for training in California from 1954 to 1962.
The John R. Craig returned to San Diego for an overhaul in March of 1962. In addition to gaining anti-submarine capabilities, the vessel was equipped with a helicopter landing pad. The ship then rejoined the 7th Fleet. The crew patrolled the Formosa Straits to ward off Chinese Communist aggressors. The ship also visited Hong Kong and Japanese ports before docking in San Francisco in May of 1964.
In December of 1965, the destroyer was overhauled in Southern California. She then served as a screen for aircraft carriers in the Tonkin Gulf, participated in Operations Sea Dragon and Traffic Cop, and shelled enemy radar sites. The vessel also patrolled for downed sailors and pilots.
After the War
As war in Vietnam continued, the U.S. sent newer, more advanced destroyers to the war front. John R. Craig was moved to the Pacific Reserve Fleet and conducted goodwill cruises. The ship was decommissioned and struck from the Naval Register in 1979. The Navy sank the destroyer during a targeting exercise in 1980.
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.