USS Lang DD-399 (1938-1947)
The 1,725 ton Benham class destroyer USS Lang DD-399 was laid down on April 5, 1937. She was built by the Federal Shipbuilding & Dry Dock Company located in Kearny, New Jersey. The 341-foot vessel was capable of traveling at 38.5 knots per hour and could accommodate 184 officers and enlisted men. On March 30, 1939, under the leadership of Lieutenant Commander Felix L. Johnson, the Lang was commissioned. She left in August 1939 from New York. Her mission was to guard the passage of President Franklin D. Roosevelt to Campobello, Newfoundland and Nova Scotia.
The following November she left Newport, Rhode Island sailing to Galveston, Texas. There she served duty on the Gulf Patrol. After sailing to San Diego she left for Pearl Harbor. There she participated in various training exercises. During the remainder of the year to the early part of 1941 the Lang had the responsibilities of escorting other ships as well as to assist in training programs. The following year she went to Port Royal, Nova Scotia. After patrolling for different ships, she sailed to the British West Indies in January 1942. On the way she rescued 34 survivors from the SS Empire Wildebeest.
Action in World War II
On January 22 and 24, 1943, the Lang bombed areas near Kokumbona. Then, in July, she headed for Kula Gulf where she escorted six APDs. During that visit she sighted three Japanese destroyers which she attacked, forcing them behind a smokescreen. In August she sailed to Valla Gulf. There she sank three Japanese destroyers. Two nights later she participated in a sweep in the same area. Her participation helped drive off three groups of Japanese barges.
She then moved on for the invasion of the Gilberts followed by the bombarding of Nauru on December 9. Early in the New Year she continued her bombardment at Roi, Namur, and Abraham. In 1944 she joined to assist in the occupation of Kwajalein. She then sailed to New Guinea where her goal was to bombard shore positions as well as lay a minefield.
After the War
The Lang left the battle zones in June. The next month she arrived in San Francisco where she underwent repairs. On October 16, 1945, the USS Lang DD-399 was decommissioned. The George Nutman, Inc., company, located in Brooklyn, New York, purchased the vessel for scraps in October, 1947. During her years of service she was awarded 11 battle stars for World War II.
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.