The USS Stephen Potter was named in honor of the first U.S. naval aviator to down a German seaplane. Stephen Potter entered naval aviation through Yale University. He served at the Advanced School in Gironde and the British Royal Naval Air Station in Felixstowe. Potter perished in a North Sea air attack in 1918.
The USS Stephen Potter, a Fletcher-class destroyer, was laid down in San Francisco in 1942. The ship was commissioned in October of 1943 with Commander Charles Crichton in command.
Action in World War II
The Stephen Potter soon headed to Hawaii, arriving on December 31, 1943. In mid-January, it began launching air strikes on the Marshall Islands with Task Force 58 in preparation for an amphibious assault to come later that month. The Stephen Potter carried on with screening and escort duty in the area for the next several months. High action was seen at the end of April when the destroyer made radar contact with an enemy submarine. Working with the MacDonough and the Monterey, the Stephen Potter sank enemy sub 1-174.
In mid-June of 1944, the destroyer began strikes on Saipan and took part in the Battle of the Philippine Sea, rescuing a number of downed pilots. The Stephen Potter next sortied with Task Group 58, providing support for troops embattled on Guam. It screened during the Philippines assault and launched strikes against a number of Japanese islands including Leyte and Luzon. The ship was also involved in the October strikes against Okinawa and Formosa. Following this action, the Stephen Potter towed a torpedoed destroyer and took 83 of its crew on board. It returned to Formosa and Okinawa for air attacks in early January of 1945 and then moved on for the bombardments of Saigon, Iwo Jima, and other enemy holdings. It returned to the Carolines in March.
The Stephen Potter continued to see heavy action until the end of World War II. A rescue effort took place on May 11 when the destroyer brought 107 survivors of the Bunker Hill aboard after a kamikaze attack. The ship launched strikes against Okinawa again in late May and finally arrived in San Francisco on July 9th. It received 10 battle stars for its service.
After the war, the Stephen Potter joined the Pacific Reserve Fleet. The ship was decommissioned in 1945 but served with the Atlantic and Pacific Fleets again from 1951-1953 during the Korean Conflict. It made goodwill visits to northern Europe in 1955 and was decommissioned again in 1958.
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.