USS Melvin DD-680 (1943-1974)
The USS Melvin (DD-680) was the second of two Navy ships named to honor Lieutenant John T. Melvin. The midshipman began his service in 1907 and joined the Naval Reserve in 1917. He died on November 5, 1917, when his patrol boat, the Alcedo, was sunk by a German U-boat. The Melvin, a Fletcher-class destroyer, measured 376’6”. It was built in New Jersey and launched in October of 1943. Commander Warner R. Edsall took Melvin through shakedown and then sailed for Hawaii.
Action in World War II
In Pearl Harbor, the Melvin patrolled for submarines. The destroyer then helped blockade Japanese holdings in the Marshall Islands before returning to Hawaii for fire support training. The training was soon expertly applied as she battled near Saipan and bombarded Tinian.
The summer of 1944, the Melvin screened convoys en route to Guam, took part in the capturing of Palau, and joined Task Force 33 for a bloodless capture of Ulithi. The ship then escorted naval vessels to Hollandia and helped make preparations for the Leyte invasion. The Leyte preparations, conducted with Task Force 79, involved screening landing craft for use in the assault. The Melvin saw battle during this patrol, joining in on the torpedo attacks that launched the Battle of Surigao Strait.
Following the Allied success in Surigao, she returned to Hollandia for escort duty to the Philippine Islands, Manus, and Lingayen Gulf. The crew fought off kamikazes from all directions; the enemy appeared as swimmers, sailors, and pilots, but did not damage the Melvin.
Iwo Jima and Okinawa were next on the agenda. The Melvin provided air cover during the campaign in Iwo Jima and splashed three enemy fighter planes. The destroyer spent two months at sea for the Okinawa campaign, acting as guard, fire patrol, and radar picket station. The crew enjoyed a brief respite in the Caroline Islands in mid-May but returned to the Ryukyus Islands for raids at the end of the month.
The Melvin’sfinal deployment was underway on July 1st. For six weeks the crew shelled and bombed industrial and military centers from off the coast of Honshu and Hokkaido. The ship’s final patrol involved occupation duty with minesweepers off the northern coast of Honshu.
After the War
The USS Melvin was decommissioned in May of 1946 and joined the Pacific Reserve Fleet. The vessel was briefly reactivated in 1951 to assist the United Nations during the Korean Conflict. She was again decommissioned in 1954 but remained in the Atlantic Reserve Fleet until 1974.
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.