USS Laws DD-558 (1942-1973)

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The USS Laws was a 376-foot vessel laid down by the Seattle Tacoma Shipbuilding Corporation. The Fletcher-class destroyer was commissioned in 1942 and launched in late April of 1943. She would eventually receive nine stars for service in World War II and two stars for service in the Korean Conflict.

Action in World War II and Korea

The Lawsfirst joined advance forces in 1944 in the Marshall Islands and screened during raids on Palau and the Caroline Islands. She then covered for tankers during the Hollandia operation on New Guinea.  Following replenishing, the Laws accompanied an aircraft carrier convoy to Saipan. The group arrived on June 15 and bombarded the island heavily. She then patrolled the area until mid-August, splashing and downing several kamikazes.

The Lawsnext turned to the Leyte invasion. It helped clear landing bases before moving its attention to the Philippines, where it would launch airstrikes against Mindanao. En route, Laws and five other Allied ships successfully battled a force of 40 small Japanese aircraft.  The Laws next supported carriers striking Formosa and Okinawa. She then steamed back to Leyte and supported troops during the October 20th invasion. When the Battle of Leyte Gulf was over, the Japanese Navy had been severely crippled.

By February 19th, the destroyer was screening for the Iwo Jima campaign — and when success was ensured, the Laws prepared for the final grand battle: Okinawa.  The Laws moved to Okinawa on March 21 and was primarily involved in minesweeping. She also splashed a Japanese A6M Zero fighter on April 6. The Laws remained in the vicinity as the peace process began and departed the Caroline Islands in September.

The ship was decommissioned in San Diego in 1946, but recommissioned in November 1951 at the rise of the Korean Conflict. Commander W. Y. Howell was in command as the destroyer began serving in the Far East. Starting in December 1952, she screened carriers off the coast of Korea, bombarded Nando Island, and carried out other assignments before returning to California on July 20th.

After the Wars

In March of 1954, the Laws joined the 7th Fleet for a West Pacific tour. The ship was dedicated to peacekeeping and supported the Chinese Nationalist holdings in the Tachen Islands. The ship then returned to California but would make annual cruises with the 7th fleet until 1957.  The USS Laws was assigned to reserve escort duty in 1958 and became a training ship. She was decommissioned in 1964 and served as part of the Mare Island Reserve Fleet until being stricken from the Naval Register in 1973 and sold for scrap.

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.


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