The USS Kilty (DD-137) received ten battle stars for her service in World War II. The vessel was named for Rear Admiral Augustus Kilty, a midshipman who served his nation for more than fifty years. The destroyer took part in operations in the Pacific, the Atlantic, the Mediterranean, and West African waters.
The Kilty, a Wickes-class destroyer, measured 314’5”. She was laid down by the Mare Island Navy Yard in California in 1918. When she was launched in December, Lieutenant Commander T. J. Keleher held command. The vessel was tested in the Caribbean. She was initially operational for just a brief time. Following shakedown, she cruised Europe during the summer of 1919 and then stayed in the San Diego area. She was decommissioned in June of 1922, only to be recommissioned in late 1939.
In April of 1940, the Kilty assumed Neutrality Patrol. The summer of that year was devoted to patrols and to conducting reserve training cruises. When the U.S. joined World War II, Kilty took on additional patrol duties, trained armed crews for merchants, and escorted convoys along the western coast of the United States.
Action in World War II
Reclassified APD-15 on January 2, 1943, the destroyer then headed for the South Pacific to work as an ASW screen before taking on the same position in the Solomon Islands, playing a vital role in their conquest. The Kilty next steamed to New Zealand, where the crew assisted troop landings for the Treasury Islands Campaign. Operations there enabled Allied Forces to seize Rabual in Papua New Guinea. Troops landing at Cape Gloucester, Saidor, Green Island, and Hollandia also received assistance from the Kilty.
The destroyer received a minor overhaul before landing troops on Cape Sansopor, Morotai, and finally Dinagat – the last was the key to securing the entrance to Leyte Gulf. The Kilty cleared the way for U.S. forces to defeat the Japanese Navy, but as the Battle of Leyte Gulf began, she was already moving on to prepare for the main Philippine Islands invasion. The Kilty’s duties during this invasion included landing troops at Mindoro, Luzon, and other strategic locations. In April the ship escorted aircraft carriers en route to Okinawa, and in May she rescued survivors of a kamikaze attack.
After the War
Following that rescue, the ship was due for an overhaul. She was reassigned her original designation, DD-137, in July 1945 but never served again. With World War II concluded, the ship was decommissioned in November and sold for scrap the next year.
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.