USS Owen DD-536 (1943-1973)

The USS Owen, a Fletcher-class destroyer, was launched by Bethlehem Steel Corp., San Francisco, California March 21, 1943. Her commission date was September 20, 1943, her commander was Comdr. R. W. Wood.

Action in World War II

After shakedown off California with DesRon 52, the Owen was assigned to Task Force 58. Arriving at Majuro, the Owen screened carriers at Kwajalein, then participated in raids at Truk on February 16. On March 22, departing Majuro with a hunter-killer group, the carriers headed for Palau, Ulithi, Woleai, and Yap, completing strikes on their targets, then sailed for New Guinea. With supporting Army forces, they executed raids on Wakde, Sewar, Hollandia and Sarmi on April 21-22. From April 29 through May 1 they attacked Truk, Ponape, and Satawan, then moved on to Wake and Marcus Islands. Departing Majuro, they readied for strikes on Saipan. On June 17, the Owen received information that a Japanese fleet was approaching. The first air assaults commenced on June 19, beginning the Battle of the Philippine Sea which lasted two days, devastating the Japanese carrier-based assault forces. During the battle, the Owen screened and protected the Bunker Hill (CV-17). After strikes at Pagan Island in July, Task Force 58 attacked Iwo Jima, Palau, Chichi Jima, Ulithi and Yap. August brought campaigns in the Marianas and Bonins, September the Philippines and Palau, October the China Seas, and later in October, supporting operations at Samar and Leyte. Due to boiler problems, the Owen was unable to assist in the China Seas but participated in the landings at Leyte. On October 25, the Owen assisted Task Force 77 at Leyte Gulf against invading enemy ships. On December 11, the force supported operations at Mindoro and Formosa, then assisted landings at Lingayen Gulf, Philippines. The China Seas assaults were increased as were those on Saigon and Ryukyus during January and February 1945. In her last assignment of the war, the Owen screened TG 58.2 for 53 days. She departed for San Francisco on June 20, arriving on July 9.

After the War

She was decommissioned briefly on December 10, then re-commissioned on August 17, 1951 as flagship for DesDiv 282, Atlantic Fleet. Departing for Asia on January 7, 1953 she joined the 7th Fleet, assisting with operations off Korea. The Owen returned to Norfolk on August 22. She continued domestic operations for the rest of her commission, arriving at Mare Island Naval Yard for decommissioning on May 27, 1958, stricken from the Navy Register on April 15, 1973. For service during World War II, she received 9 battle stars, 2 for service during the Korean War.

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.