Construction for the USS John W Weeks DD 701 began on January 17, 1944, at the Federal Ship Building & Dry Dock Co. in Kearny, New Jersey, and the ship was launched on May 21. The ship named after former Secretary of War John Wingate Weeks was sponsored by his daughter, Mrs. John. W. Davidge. The ship was commissioned on July 21 with Commander Robert A. Theobald, Jr. in command.
Action in World War II, Korea, and Elsewhere
The destroyer left New York on November 10 as she escorted the battleships Missouri (BB-63), Texas, (BB-35) and Arkansas (BB-33), along with the carriers Shamrock Bay (CVE-84) and Wake Island (CVE-65) to the Pacific. On December 27, she joined the 3rd fleet at Ulithi. During this time the John W. Weeks was instrumental in the sinking of ships in the Imperial Fleet as well as the strikes carried out on Tokyo on February 16 and 17, 1945. The ship played a key role in the major Okinawa invasion as well as the escort operations with the occupation forces until she sailed for home, arriving in San Francisco on January 20, 1946. From there, she was sent on to Norfolk for repairs where she was inactivated on April 26, 1946.
During the Korean War, the John W. Weeks was recommissioned on October 24, 1950. Later, she participated in the “Inland Seas” operation and was the first to enter into each of the Great Lakes. It was during this cruise the ship escorted the HMY Britannia with the Queen of England aboard as it sailed from Chicago to Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan. The John W. Weeks was also a major participant in the Cuban Missile Crisis as she escorted the replenishment ships to the quarantine area. In 1963 the ship was awarded the Battle Efficiency “E” for her outstanding service.
The USS John W. Weeks served on several escort missions during her commission. These missions range from World War II through to the Vietnam Conflict. During her tenure of service she received four battle stars as for her participation in World War II. She was decommissioned on April 12, 1970, when she was stricken from the record while being used as a gunnery target. The final resting place of the John W. Weeks is 1300 fathoms below the ocean surface at 37°10.9’N, 73°45.6’W
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.