USS Leutze DD-481 (1944-1946)

A Fletcher-class destroyer, the USS Leutze was launched on October 29, 1942 and was fully commissioned on March 4, 1944. The US Navy vessel was named after US Navy Admiral Eugene H.C. Leutze. The huge vessel was about 376 feet in length and weighed in at approximately 2,050 tons. She had an effective range of 6,500 nautical miles at a steady 15 knots. Should the situation call for it, the Fletcher could easily hit a top speed of 35 knots. As with most World War II era destroyers, the Leutze was more than intimidating. On board were five 5”/38 caliber guns and ten 40 mm anti-aircraft guns. Aside from this, she also had, seven 20 mm anti-aircraft guns, ten torpedo tubes with an arsenal of deadly torpedoes and six depth charge projectors.

Action in World War II

With Commander B.A. Robbins Jr. in command, the ship passed all her initial tests and trials. She went through several military exercises in Hawaii and the Solomon Islands to prepare her for action, and then joined the Task Group 77.2 in preparations for the Philippine invasion. The Leutze entered the fray and took some hits a few days later from a squadron of Japanese aircraft. Bombing and strafing runs from the enemy planes resulted in eleven casualties. The Americans regrouped from the onslaught and retaliated later that night. Together with the 7th Fleet, the Leutze fired torpedoes at the ships of Japan's Southern Force. The Imperial Navy fought back by facing the Americans head on but was eventually picked apart. With their fleet decimated, the Japanese shifted to airstrikes. Four of the ships around her were brought down by kamikaze pilots but the Leutze managed to avoid getting hit. She underwent some well-deserved repairs and returned to action. She steamed towards Lingayen Gulf in the Philippines where she provided necessary cover fire for American troops. During the mission, the USS Leutze sank a Japanese patrol vessel and destroyed a suicide boat packed with explosives two days later.

After the War

For her valor, the ship was awarded five battle stars. She was decommissioned on December 6, 1945 and removed from the official Naval Register in 1947. She was then purchased for scrap on June 17, 1947.

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.