Action in World War II
The USS Picking (DD-685) was a 2,900 ton Fletcher-class destroyer built at Staten Island, New York and commissioned on September 21, 1943. After shakedown off Bermuda, the Picking was assigned to Destroyer Squadron 49, North Pacific Fleet. She arrived at Dutch Harbor, Alaska on December 28, 1943. Through the spring and summer of 1944 she bombarded various islands in the Aleutian chain. Following a brief upkeep at San Francisco in early August, she sailed to Pearl Harbor, arriving on August 31.
Escorting attack transports she arrived at Manus Island on October 3 and joined 7th Fleet operations. The Picking downed one enemy plane while escorting unloaded transports to New Guinea on October 24. At the Battle of Samar Island she and USS Hale shot down a Japanese aircraft. The ship spent the next four months supporting operations in the Philippines. On March 26, 1945 she screened transports for the landings on Kerama Retto, Ryukyus. She bombarded enemy positions on Okinawa on April 1, downed two Japanese planes during the following week, and rescued a naval aviator on April 17. In May, she picked up survivors from the USS Longshaw. Decommissioned after the war, the destroyer was assigned to the Reserve Fleet at San Diego.
After the War
The Picking was brought back into the active fleet for duty during the Korean conflict. She conducted shore bombardment and rescued a downed naval aviator. Following the truce, she steamed back to the United States via the Suez Canal, arriving at Boston October 2, 1953. In January 1955, she deployed for European and Mediterranean duty, returning to Newport, Rhode Island on May 26.
The Picking was then transferred to the Pacific Fleet arriving at Long Beach April 15, 1956. She toured the Far East during the winter of 1957-58. Her next Westpac deployment began in October when she steamed with a group led by the USS Yorktown. During this cruise, the Picking delivered emergency supplies to Koniya, Japan after the city suffered a devastating fire. In the fall of 1959, the ship joined Canadian units for antisubmarine exercises off the West Coast. She made two more Westpac deployments before escorting the USS Ranger during the Cuban Missile Crisis.
Her first tour in Vietnam took place in 1964 when she performed escort duties. She made three more deployments to the combat zone, the last in 1968. The ship won five Battle Stars in World War II and one in Korea.
The Picking was decommissioned on September 6, 1969 and transferred to the Reserve Fleet. She was sunk as a target ship on February 27, 1969.
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.