The USS Paul Jones was constructed by the William Cramp and Sons Company, and was launched on September 30th, 1920. She was named after John Paul Jones, a Navy Officer during the Revolutionary War. She was a Clemson-class destroyer, but was later re-designated as AG-20, an auxiliary vessel. The Paul Jones was commissioned on April 19th, 1921 and assigned to the Atlantic Fleet.
After finishing training and shakedown, the Paul Jones was committed to various operations and neutrality patrols in the Atlantic until 1923, whereupon she was ordered to join the Pacific Fleet. In the following years, Paul Jones participated in numerous patrols in the Phillipines and South China, at one point joining the Yangtze River Patrol.
On December 8th, 1941, after hearing about the attack on Pearl Harbor, the Paul Jones was activated and headed towards Soerabaja Harbor, Java. She steamed in a convoy along with the USS Marblehead, Barker, Parrott, and Stewart. When the ships arrived at their destination, they assumed picket duty, watching for enemy aircraft and attacks.
On January 9th, 1942, the Paul Jones conducted a rescue operation in which she saved over a hundred men from a capsized Dutch ship. She later salvaged the USS Liberty on the 12th of January and then was assigned to a new raiding group. Upon meeting up with the destroyers the Pope, Parrot, and John D. Ford, the Paul Jones attempted to intercept a Japanese battle group sailing towards Balikpapan. They succeeded in finding the convoy, and engaged the enemy, although they faced poor odds. Despite being outnumbered, they succeeded in destroying multiple enemy ships, while only one American destroyer suffered damage.
In the next few years, the Paul Jones undertook various patrol and convoy missions, and also performed anti-submarine patrols. The Paul Jones was also present at the Battle of the Java Sea. Having run out of torpedoes earlier that month, and being low on fuel as well, she managed to escape the Japanese forces that were closing in on Java. She then headed to Australia for replenishment of her supplies.
On June 30th, 1945, the Paul Jones was reclassified as an auxiliary vessel after undergoing inactivation at Norfolk. She was decommissioned on November 5th, 1945 and later sold as scrap to Northern Metal.
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.