The USS Litchfield (DD-336) was named after John Litchfield, a Navy sailor killed attempting to carry an fallen comrade to safety during World War I. A Clemson-class destroyer, the USS Litchfield was laid down by the Mare Island Navy Yard. She was launched on August 12, 1919 and was commissioned on May 12, 1920.
She was measured at slightly over 314 feet and tipped the scales at 1,215 tons. With geared turbines with two screws, the Litchfield had an effective range of 4,900 nautical miles at 15 knots. She could reach a maximum speed of 35 knots if needed. Carrying a total of 126 officers and enlisted men, the USS Litchfield had less weaponry than other US Navy destroyers but was still a formidable vessel. She carried four 4” guns, one 3” gun and twelve 21” torpedo tubes.
Between the Wars
Commanded by Lieutenant Commander J.F. McClain, the Litchfield initially patrolled the waters along the West Coast. The ship was then called to handle humanitarian missions, working with other US Navy ships in evacuating thousands of Greek and Armenian refugees from the conflict in Smyrna in 1922. They also brought much needed supplies for the evacuees.
The ship also had the heartbreaking task of returning the remains of George Dilboy, the heroic US Army Private First Class who received the Medal of Honor during World War I. Upon her return to the United States, she excelled in tactical exercises and even won a cash award for besting other vessels in a short-range firing competition.
Action in World War II
During World War II, she was stationed in Pearl Harbor. As the flagship vessel of the Submarine Squadron 4, she trained and maneuvered with Navy submarines. She left Pearl Harbor on December 6, 1941, missing the devastating Japanese surprise attack by a day. She returned to what was left of the base on December 9, 1941.
The ship continued her submarine escort duties. There were times when she went on depth charge runs but was never credited for sinking any enemy submarines. As she was an aging vessel, experts recommended that she should be scrapped. She was decommissioned on November 5, 1944, and eventually scrapped in 1946.
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.