USS Stockham DD-683 (1942-1977)
The USS Stockham was a Fletcher-class destroyer in the US Navy. She was named after Gunnery Sergeant Fred W Stockham of the US Marine Corps, and laid down on December 19, 1942.
Action in World War II
Officially commissioned in February of 1944 during the height of the war, she continued her training until May when she was asked to prepare for the invasion of the Mariana Islands. It was there that the Stockham participated in the Battle of the Philippine Sea, known by many as The Great Marianas Turkey Shoot. Along with the 5th fleet, the Stockham swept the sky clean of Japanese air units, using a combination of anti-aircraft fire and combat planes. The Stockham herself definitely dropped three enemy planes and possibly two others in the skirmish.
In the summer of 1944, the Stockham supported occupation efforts in Saipan and Tinian. Her main duties were to patrol the waters and protect the ground troops from air attack. She also assisted in the occasional bombardment and land support activity. As autumn approached, the Stockham continued to perform sweeps throughout the Pacific, setting the stage for strikes on Okinawa and the Japanese homeland in 1945.
As the naval forces prepared to sweep the coasts of Kyushu, Okinawa, and Kerama Retto, the Stockham was put in charge of protecting Task Force 38 from the onslaught of kamikaze planes. She managed to splash a several Japanese planes, including two Zero fighters. In addition to repelling enemy air raids, she helped escort a group of damaged ships to Apra Harbor, Guam. There she remained until July of 1945, when she rejoined Task Force 38. For the rest of the war she assisted fleet carriers as they bombarded Tokyo, screening them off from suicide planes.
After the War
After the surrender of the Japanese Empire, the Stockham worked with occupation forces and supported landings at Tokyo Bay and Tateyama. On October 31, 1945, she was finally allowed to return to the United States. She was decommissioned and remained on the west coast until the Korean conflict erupted the following decade. From there she was asked to participate in a number of training and patrol missions, eventually returning to Asia and circumnavigating the globe in 1954.
Returning to Newport, Rhode Island, in 1957, the USS Stockham was decommissioned and placed in the Atlantic Reserve Fleet. She would be officially stricken from the naval list in 1974 and sunk as a target in 1977. In total she earned eight battle stars for her World War II service.
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.