USS Sigsbee DD-502 (1943-1974)

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The Navy named the USS Sigsbee (DD-502), a Fletcher-class destroyer, after the famed Admiral of the USS Maine, which was sunk at the beginning of the Spanish American War. The ship displaced 2,050 tons, had a length of 376 feet, a beam of 40 feet, and a draft of 17 feet 9 inches. She had five 5 inch guns, ten 40 mm guns, seven 20 mm guns, ten 21 inch torpedo tubes and a multitude of depth charges.

Action in World War II

The Sigsbee was commissioned on January 23, 1943, and her first duties consisted of escorting Navy and civilian ships up and down the East Coast of the United States. She joined the Pacific Fleet and arrived on August 9 in Pearl Harbor. She saw her first combat with a task group built around three aircraft carriers: the Yorktown, the Essex, and the Independence. The group raided installations on Marcus Island and then returned to Pearl Harbor on September 8. The Sigsbee then participated in the bombardment of Wake Island on October 5. After this raid she joined Task Unit 53.1.4 en route to Betio and Tarawa Atoll where she participated in shore bombardment and assault.

During the remainder of 1944, the Sigsbee participated in the following campaigns: capture of Kwajalein and Marshall Islands in January; bombardment of Kavieng, New Ireland, in March; Marianas operation in July; landings at Cape Podangi in September, and in Leyte in October.  The last year of the war, 1945, saw the ship supporting landings at Iwo Jima and assisting in bombing runs and the assault on Okinawa in April.

On April 14, during the battle for Okinawa, a kamikaze plane struck the Sigsbee, aft near gun emplacement number 5. This explosion disabled the port engine and killed 23 sailors. The ship speed slowed down to five knots in the water on one engine, having lost her ability to steer. Commander Gordon Pai’ea Chung-Hoon refused to give up the ship and saved her from sinking. She was able to make it back to Pearl Harbor.

After the War

From there she went back to the East coast arriving in Philadelphia on October 22, where she steamed on to Charleston for her decommissioning on May 1, 1946.  During World War II the USS Sigsbee received 11 battle stars for her service. She was eventually struck from the Naval Register in 1974 and sold for scrap the next year.

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.


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