The USS John Rodgers (DD-574) was the second of three Navy ships honoring the Rodgers family. She was laid down in Orange, Texas, sponsored by Helen Perry Rogers, and then launched in May 1942. In February of 1943, the destroyer came under the charge of Commander H. O. Parish.
Action in World War II
The John Rodgers was tested in the Caribbean. In mid-May she screened a convoy while traveling to Pearl Harbor. The ship then readied for an August task force that raided Tarawa and other atolls in the Central Pacific. After that, she steamed to the Solomon Islands to support landings and screen supply convoys. During the second week of November, the crew assisted Santa Fe in deflecting a Japanese torpedo. The ship remained in the area through late 1944, supporting Marines until the Allies secured Tarawa Atoll.
The John Rodgersclosed 1944 with training in Pearl Harbor and then headed to the Marshall Islands. At the end of January 1945, the crew provided anti-sub and anti-aircraft protection to landing forces on Kwajalein Atoll. Resistance forces were neutralized within a week. The John Rodgers patrolled the area until late March and then moved on to help ground troops secure other islands. The ship worked in Hollandia, Guadalcanal, Guam, and the Mariana Islands from April until August before replenishing in California.
On September 14, the John Rodgers steamed to Morotai in order to support the invasion. This secured a base for short-range fighters and bombers targeting Leyte. Then, under the command of Commander J. G. Franklin, the ship screened troops moving to the Philippines and supported the Leyte landings on October 20. The ship ultimately left the Philippine Islands on October 30, 1944, in order to receive an overhaul.
The destroyer joined Task Force 58 and took part in attacks on Japan from February 16-18, helping to down almost 800 Japanese planes. The ship then screened an air carrier convoy for the Iwo Jima invasion on February 19. It was then time to prepare for the invasion of Okinawa. The John Rodgers screened carriers from the start, splashing kamikazes and patrolling the area from April 1 until June 21.
After the War
The John Rodgers steamed homeward and arrived in Boston in mid-October. The ship was then decommissioned in May of 1946. She was sold to the Mexican Navy in 1970 and became known as Cuitlahuac. Though she was retired from service in 2001, there is an effort afoot to turn her into a museum ship.
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.