The USS Putnam served in the US Navy as an Allen M. Sumner-class destroyer from her commission date October 12, 1944 through August 6, 1973. The USS Putnam DD-757 was the second US Navy ship to be names for Charles Putnam. She saw action in the Pacific during World War II, participating in the battle of Iwo Jima, among others.
This Allen M. Sumner class destroyer was laid down by Bethlehem Steel Co., Shipbuilding Division, of San Francisco, California, on July 11, 1943, and was launched on the March 26, 1944. The Putnam was sponsored by Mrs. Doana Putnam Wheeler, and she received her commission on October 12, with Commander Frederick Hilles as her commanding officer.
Action in World War II
She had her shakedown off the Pacific Coast before joining the Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbor on January 2, 1945, to prepare for her first offensive operation. Her first destination was the Marianas Islands where she screened transports carrying the 4th and 5th Division Marines.
She then joined the military convoy en route to Iwo Jima. On February 19, the Putnam arrived off the coast of Iwo Jima. She supported the Marines attacking the island, inching in to shore as close as she dared, illuminating Japanese troop concentrations using Star Shells. After the battle, the Secretary of the Navy James Forrestal enlisted the Putnam to take him and his party to Guam for a conference with the US Fleet Admiral Chester W. Nimitz. After sailing as escort to logistics ships, the USS Putnam took up anti-aircraft screening duties before assignment to a gunfire support station southwest of Okinawa in April.
After assignment to a hazardous radar picket station, the Putnam was almost scuttled by a kamikaze plane, but an unidentified American pilot crashed into the Kamikaze plane at the last minute to knock it off course. That same day the USS Twiggs was hit by a torpedo, exploding her No. 2 magazine. Though rescue operations were made hazardous by exploding ammunition, the Putnam rescued 114 of the 188 Twiggs survivors.
After the War
In the days after the war, the Putnam escorted transport planes to Tokyo and the USS New Jersey to Wakayama. In December, she returned to San Diego, and then to various ports on the U.S. east coast. She completed peacetime cruises to Europe, followed by duty in the Mediterranean and training in the Caribbean.
The USS Putnam was decommissioned for the last time and struck from the register on August 6, 1973, and scrapped within the year. However, she can be seen in the Mickey Rooney film The Bridges at Toko Ri. She earned three battle stars in World War II.
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.