The USS La Vallette (DD-448), a Fletcher-class destroyer, was built by Federal Shipbuilding and Drydock Corporation and launched June 21, 1942, with a commission date of August 12. Her commander was Lt. Cmdr. H. H. Henderson.
Action in World War II
After the La Vallette completed her shakedown training she returned to New York for refit, then deployed to the Panama Canal, sailing December 16, 1942. She was assigned as a screener for Task Force 18 near Guadalcanal. While on duty January 29, 1943, a squadron of enemy planes staged an air assault, and the La Vallette managed to take out three. The next day while guarding the USS Chicago, another enemy squadron attacked. She shot down six, but sustained a hit from a torpedo, her crew suffering twenty-two fatalities. Towed to Espiritu Santo, she received temporary repair, then sailed to Mare Island for additional repairs.
On August 6 she departed for Pearl Harbor and was assigned to a carrier group for a planned attack of Marcus Island, implemented on August 31. She then resumed patrol duties off the Solomon Islands. During night patrols off Kolombangara on October 1 she engaged Japanese transports carrying troops, damaging two and sinking four. She was then reassigned to screening and escort duty in support of landings in the Gilbert Islands, Kwajalein and Wotje, where she shot down one enemy plane.
Deployed on February 1, 1944 to Roi, she participated in preinvasion bombings, then went to Papua New Guinea where she assisted in the taking of Aitape on April 22, also supporting the landings at Noemfoor on July 2. The La Vallette performed frequent escort and patrol duty during this campaign.
Her next deployment was as an escort for convoys in the initial assault of the Philippines. She departed Leyte Gulf escorting a convoy headed to Hollandia for supplies. On December 5 at Surigao Strait, she downed a kamikaze plane. Throughout December and into January of 1945 she supported five additional landings. She also assisted in screening for minesweepers at Manila Bay. At Mariveles Harbor on February 14, a mine explosion inflicted serious damage to the La Vallette, causing six fatalities and 23 injuries. After repairs at Subic Bay, she sailed to Hunters Point for additional repairs. When completed, she sailed for San Diego on August 7.
After the War
La Vallette was decommissioned April 16, 1946, at San Diego and assigned to the Reserve Fleet, where she remained until she was sold to Peru for parts in 1974. For service in World War II, USS La Vallette was awarded 10 battle stars.
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.