James M. Prichett was born in Centreville, Ind., in 1836 and was a Naval Academy graduate in 1857. He commanded the gunboat the Tyler during the Battle of Helena, Arkansas on 4 July 1863, earning praise for his action against a superior Confederate force. His wartime service included command of the monitor Mahopac. He accompanied Admiral Farragut’s Russian expedition, returning to Pacific Squadron in 1869, and died in 1871 while serving on receiving ship the Vermont at the Brooklyn Navy Yard.
Action in World War II
The Prichett was commissioned 15 January 1944 under Comdr. Cecil T. Caulfield. In April 1944, the Prichett sailed to Manus to join Task Force 58 and was involved in operations in the Carolines, returning to Pearl Harbor after the Panope bombing.
The Prichett was in the Battle of the Philippine Sea and other operations around Saipan and Tinian prior to and after the invasion on 24 July, and in October, the Prichett participated in operations preparatory to the Philippine invasion. During this period, one sailor was killed and 15 wounded when a destroyer in the screen accidentally fired on the Prichett.
After repairs, the Prichett sailed for Ulithi, participating in operations there in November and December and striking the Manila Bay area during the landings on Mindoro. In January and February, the Prichett participated in activities in the South China Sea, Southeast Asia, China and Formosa before returning to cover the landings at Iwo Jima in March.
The Prichett was involved in operations leading to the invasion of Okinawa, during which she was holed by an enemy bomb. After repairs she returned to Okinawa on May 7. There, the Prichett was hit by a kamikaze, resulting in damage leading to her decommission on 14 March 1946.
Action in the Korean War
The Prichett was re-commissioned on 17 August 1951, underwent modernization, and departed for the Korean combat zone in January 1953. Until June, she performed plane guard and screening duties, provided gunfire support at Wonsan Harbor and the Hungnam coast, and served as a hospital ship.
Action in the Vietnam War
After the Korean War, the Prichett took part in Fleet tours, exercises, training missions, and patrols. In August 1964 her deployment was extended and for the next five years and she undertook a series of Vietnam combat tours. In February 1968, she played a crucial role in the Tet offensive, returning home on 26 May.
The Prichett was recommended for disposal on 17 December 1969 and was decommissioned on 10 January 1970 after earning 16 battle stars in three wars.
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.