USS Robert K. Huntington DD-781
The USS Huntington was named for Robert Kingsbury Huntington, a California native who served as radioman aboard the Lexington and then worked on the Hornet as part of Torpedo Squadron 8. Huntington gave his life in the June 1942 Battle of the Midway. He was posthumously awarded the Distinguished Service Cross.
The destroyer named in Huntington’s honor was a Sumner-class ship. It measured 376’ long and had a high speed of 34 knots. The Huntington received two battle stars for its service in the Vietnam War.
Action in World War II
The USS Huntington was constructed in 1944 by the Seattle-Tacoma Ship Building Corporation. It was commissioned in early March of 1945 and joined the Pacific Fleet in late May. The destroyer first escorted ships between the Marshall Islands and the Carolines. Then, on August 28, it escorted the USS Missouri to the surrender ceremony along the Japanese coast and brought Marines home to San Diego.
After the War
The Huntington returned to the Marshall Islands in 1946 to take part in the Bikini Atoll atomic bomb test known as Operation Crossroads. The ship spent the next three years in trainings and operations off the California coast, off Hawaii, and in the Far East with Task Force 38.
In April of 1949, the Huntington moved to the Atlantic Fleet for anti-submarine training and escort duty. The winter of that year was spent in the Arctic, but the crew saw warm weather again in February with Caribbean-based fleet exercises. Starting in December, the ship alternated between Norfolk, Virginia and the Caribbean for two years. In 1955, it toured the Mediterranean, trained off Norfolk, and guarded President Eisenhower’s flight over the Atlantic to the Geneva Conference.
The Huntington returned to the Caribbean in the spring of 1956 and then steamed to Europe for NATO exercises. The ship had Mediterranean deployments in 1958 and 1959. It was then overhauled during much of 1960. The modernized destroyer resumed Caribbean operations for all of 1961, briefly went to the Black Sea, and then alternated between the Caribbean and the Mediterranean for four years.
Action in the Vietnam War
The Huntington deployed to Vietnam in 1968. After six months, the ship returned to patrol the Atlantic, the Caribbean, and the Gulf of Mexico. From 1970 until 1973, the ship served the Navy Reserve. The destroyer was decommissioned in October of 1973 and was sold to Venezuela.
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.