The USS John R. Pierce (DD-753) served in the United States naval Fleet for 23 years between 1944 and1967. Commissioned on December 30, 1944, the ship was an instrumental part of the United States involvement in World War II and the Korean War.
Action in World War II and Korea
Right after completing a shakedown tour near Bermuda, the John R. Pierce worked from Norfolk for the duration before summer 1945, training navy reserve crews as well as performing ASW missions alongside the eastern coast. She reported to Pearl Harbor in early July, and was then sent on escort duty, protecting a carrier-cruiser group on its way to Wake Island. When the war in the Pacific ended in mid-August, the John R. Pierce was ordered to the island of Honshu, Japan, to escort occupation troops, a duty she would perform for the next few months.
After a brief period of inactivation, the destroyer was once again commissioned in April of 1949, performing operations in the Atlantic. The next year, she joined up with the Sixth Fleet for operations in the Mediterranean and the western coast of Europe. After a little over a year spent back on the U.S. east coast, the John R. Pierce once again departed for the Far East, this time for Korea. During the Korean War, she performed blockade and bombardment duties from Chongjin to Songjin. She took several his from enemy fire in August of 1952, but was able to continue patrolling until October. Her war duty over, she returned to Norfolk at the end of the year.
After the War
The John R. Pierce remained ready to respond to crises in international waters. During the 1957 political upheaval in Jordan, she prevented Egypt from interfering by patrolling the Mediterranean and Red Sea. In that same area of the world, she protected Lebanon from the United Arab Republic, an Egyptian and Syrian union that received support from Soviet Russia. When the assassination of General Trujillo threatened stability in the Dominican Republic, the John R. Pierce set sail for the Caribbean.
After recovering a floating Mercury space capsule in 1962, the ship was once again called upon during the Cuban quarantine when the navy discovered Russian missiles on the island. The John R. Pierce helped prevent the Russians from exporting any more weapons to Cuba, staying in the area even after tensions were resolved. Her missions over the coming years were less eventful, but took her back to the Mediterranean.
Returning to Norfolk in 1965, the USS John R. Pierce began duty as a training ship. She was eventually decommissioned in 1973 and broken up and sold for scrap the next year. For her service in Korea, the destroyer earned one battle star.
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.