Named for Samuel W. Preston, an officer in the Union Navy during the Civil War, the USS Preston’s keel was laid down June 13, 1943, by Bethlehem Steel Company. She was launched on December 12 and commissioned March 20, 1944.
Action in World War II
On July 1, the Preston left Pearl Harbor for the Marianas combat zone. She arrived off Guam on July 17 and screened the transport area off the assault beaches until August 8. The destroyer spent two days in Apra Harbor and then sailed for Eniwetok. Between August 29 and October 6, she screened aircraft carriers during air strikes against the Palaus, guarded the carriers during action against the Japanese in the Philippines, returned to the Palaus for the troop landings on Peleliu and Anguar, sailed back to the Philippines and then retired to Ulitihi.
On October 6, the destroyer was involved strikes on Formosan air bases in preparation for the invasion of the Philippines. The fleet then went southeast to the waters off Luzon to support the Leyte invasions. On October 24 the Preston’s group came under severe air attack. Japanese planes launched multiple assaults. Many of the attacking planes were destroyed but one of the US ships was lost.
That night the ships were ordered to go north to search for a Japanese carrier force. Within an hour of their arrival, planes were launched to begin the search. They found the enemy near Cape Engafio after daylight. Fighter squadrons took to the air and attacked the Japanese. In the afternoon, the destroyers and cruisers finished off the surviving ships. The US fleet then went south to join other forces in a search for enemy ships fleeing through the San Bernardino Strait. The following day they provided air cover for troops on Leyte and then left for Ulithi. The Preston was involved in numerous additional engagements with the enemy in Japanese waters until Japan surrendered August 14, 1945. She remained in the Okinawa area until September 6.
After the War
The Preston returned to the U.S., arriving in California on September 24 to begin deactivation. She was decommissioned on April 24, 1946, and placed in reserve. The Korean War saw the Preston reactivated and recommissioned on January 26, 1951. She continued to serve until January 15, 1966. She was removed from the Naval Vessel Register on November 15, 1969. Overall, the Preston earned six battle stars during World War II and one 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.