USS Overton DD-239 (1920-1945)
The USS Overton was named for Captain Macon C. Overton, a brave casualty of World War I. During his lifetime, Captain Overton was awarded a decorated Croix de Guerre and the Distinguished Service Cross. He was posthumously awarded a second Distinguished Service Cross. The ship named in his honor was a Clemson-class destroyer, also known as a four-stacker or four-piper. It measured 314 feet long and was designed with a high speed of 35 knots.
The ship was laid down in late 1918 by the New York Shipbuilding Company in New Jersey with the sponsorship of Captain Overton’s mother, Margaret C. Overton. Shakedown commenced in June 1920, and the ship then worked off the east coast with the 3rd and 5th Destroyer Squadrons.
The Overton then moved to the Black Sea with the 2nd Destroyer Squadron in mid-September. For the next eighteen months, the ship engaged in diplomatic and humanitarian endeavors there and in the Mediterranean. The ship then briefly returned to the U.S. before embarking on a six-month tour in Turkish waters. For the next eight years, 1925 and 1926 excepted, the Overton patrolled the Atlantic. The destroyer served in the Pacific during 1925 and 1926 deployments. The ship was then relatively inactive; it was decommissioned in 1931, briefly used again, and then decommissioned in 1937.
Action in World war II
The USS Overton was re-commissioned at the onset of European hostilities in the autumn of 1939. The ship assumed neutrality patrol and escorted convoys to Iceland, the Gulf of Mexico, the Caribbean, Norfolk, and Casablanca. In July of 1943, the Overton assisted with the sinking of two U-boats. The destroyer was then refit for high speed in August. It sailed for training in Pearl Harbor and then headed further west to screen for landings at Gehh, Gea, Bigej, and other Japanese outposts. The ship also escorted convoys to Saipan and Pearl Harbor and took park in bombardments.
The Overton took part in the historic Leyte landings, helping to put personnel safety ashore and returning there later as an escort ship. The destroyer also assisted with amphibious operations in Lingayen Gulf, patrolled off Iwo Jima, and took on convoy duty to Okinawa. The USS Overton had the dangerous assignment of radar picket station from April 11th until April 15th but emerged unscathed and headed for the coast of Saipan.
After screening off Saipan, the Overton returned to the U.S., first stopping in San Francisco and then moving to Philadelphia for inactivation. The ship was decommissioned in July of 1945 and was sold for scrap in November.
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.