The USS Phelps was constructed in Quincy, Massachusetts. The Porter-class destroyer weighed 1,805 tons. She was put into commission in February of 1936, and most of her duties were in or around the waters of the Pacific before the war. She spent the first thirty months of the war there as well.
Action in World War II
The Phelps was in Hawaii at Pearl Harbor when the Japanese conducted their surprise attack on December 7th, 1941. She went to the South Pacific with the USS Lexington to participate in the Battle of the Coral Sea at the beginning of May 1942. The Lexington was damaged beyond repair, and the USS Phelps was one of the ships that helped to sink her. The Phelps’ next duty was during the Battle of Midway in June. She also acted as guard for the aircraft carrier the USS Saratoga during the Battle of the Easter Solomons and the invasions of Tulagi and Guadalcanal.
After these duties, the Phelps was sent to California for repairs. She then was a part of the Attu landings near Alaska in May of 1943. The Japanese attacked her with planes, which she defended successfully. Soon after this she helped bombard Kiska Island. She provided support in November of 1943 and from January until February of 1944 during numerous invasions, including the Kwajalein, Gilberts, and the Makin Island invasions.
In the middle of February, the USS Phelps sunk the RO-40, a Japanese submarine, near Kwajalein. In the central Pacific, during aircraft carrier raids, she acted as an escort for refueling ships. Then in June, while the United States was landing on Saipan, she helped bombard for cover fire. During this bombardment, on June 18th, the coastal artillery of the Japanese hit her, not inflicting considerable damage.
The Phelps was sent to the waters of the Atlantic in the middle of 1944. She was given upgrades while there, including new guns, and spent the remainder of the war acted as an escort for convoys from the United States to the waters of the Mediterranean. In November of 1945 she was put out of commission and was put in reserve for about a year. In January of 1947 she was struck from the register and in August was sold for scrap.
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.