USS Shields DD-596 (1945-1972)
The USS Shields was constructed by the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard based out of Bremerton, Washington. She was named after a sailor named Purser Shields who fought at the Battle of New Orleans. After being launched on September 25, 1944, the destroyer was commissioned under the command of Commander George B. Madden on February 8, 1945.
Action in World War II and Korea
The Shields immediately began training and shakedown, but this was interrupted by a crucial escort mission. She was assigned to escort the USS Iowa. After finally finishing training near Pearl Harbor, she joined a convoy heading for Eniwetok Atoll. Due to the fact that she was created near the end of World War II, the Shields did not see much action at that time. She primarily conducted escort and patrol missions in the Pacific between the areas of Borneo, Leyte, Okinawa, and Miri. She did see actual combat at one point: on June 26, 1945, at the invasion of Miri.
After the end of World War II, the Shields remained in the waters near Japan and South China to ferry occupation troops as well as provide support for unstable areas. After all hostilities had ceased, she steamed back to the United States and patrolled for a brief period before being decommissioned on June 14, 1946.
The USS Shields was recommissioned for active duty during the Korean War, on July 15, 1950. During this period, she participated in three tours, mostly providing gun support for ground troops. She was also present at the attack on Kojo and was assigned to ASW exercises near Okinawa and Japan. After refitting in San Diego at the end of 1953, the Shields sailed for Korea again. She was assigned to Task Force 77, and headed for the Philippine Islands. There, she patrolled for two months, after which she went to Japan and Hong Kong.
After the War
In the next several decades, the Shields remained on the west coast, at times deploying to the Indo-China area on patrol missions. She also participated in the return of T. Roosevelt’s Great White Fleet. In August of 1960, she received a Battle Efficiency Award for being combat ready. On July 1, 1972, the Shields was decommissioned and sold to the Brazilian Navy.
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.