USS Laffey DD-724 (1943-1975)
The USS Laffey DD-724 was built by the Bath Iron Works Corporation, located in Bath Maine. On June 28, 1943, her keel was laid down, and five months later she was launched. Then, in February of the following year, Commander F.J. Beston took command of the vessel. She first sailed to Washington Navy Yard. This was followed by a trip to Bermuda and then she returned to Norfolk. There she served as a school ship. Her next voyage took her to Plymouth, England where she arrived on May 27.
Action in World War II
She had very little preparation time as she immediately planned for the invasion of France. She saw a lot of action including her pursuing enemy “E” boats. These boats had torpedoed the Nelson, an important destroyer. The Laffey was successful in breaking up the intense formation of the “E” boats which prevented any additional attacks. She then sailed with the O’Brien and the Barron, both destroyers. Both of these were hit by enemy fire. The Laffey suffered minor damage when a shell ricocheted on the vessel but failed to explode. The Laffey then headed for England.
Approximately four months later she departed for home and arrived in Boston early in July. In September she sailed for Pearl Harbor. After extensive training she left for the war zone. She was stationed close to Okinawa. Soon she joined the other destroyers in enemy attacks at which time the U.S. destroyed 13 enemy planes. The next day more than 50 enemy planes attacked. The Laffey was badly damaged by four bombs along with the hit of five kamikazes. The Laffey had 71 wounded along with 32 deaths. She then went in for repairs before returning to Pearl Harbor. She returned to San Diego on June 17.
After the War
The Laffey was decommissioned in June, 1947 when she entered the Pacific Reserve Fleet. About three and one half years later she was recommissioned. She sailed for the Mediterranean in 1956 during the roughest part of the Suez Crisis. She carried out a number of patrols and other missions during the next few years. She also continued to cruise with the 6th Fleet during regular Mediterranean cruises. She participated in a number of training and operational exercises in both the Caribbean and Atlantic.
During the USS Laffey DD-724’s career she was awarded with five battle stars. This was for her service in World War ll. She also received two battle stars for her Korean service. She was decommissioned and struck from the Naval Register in 1975, but currently serves as a museum ship off the coast of Charleston, South Carolina.
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.