The USS Stoddard, a Fletcher class destroyer, was first laid down on March 10, 1943, in Tacoma, Washington, and launched on November 19. She was commissioned April 15, 1944 under the command of Commander Horace Meyers. The ship was sponsored by Mrs. Mildred Gould Holcomb.
Action in World War II and Vietnam
Departing Seattle on July 16, the Stoddard steamed forth to Pearl Harbor and then on to Alaska to join Task Force 94. Her first duty with Task Force 94 was to harass Japanese outposts located between Japan and the Aleutian Islands. The attack was set for August, but inclement weather kept delaying the task and the feat was not accomplished until November of that year.
From January 16 until the end of May, 1945, the Stoddard spent most of her time completing patrols in and around Hawaii. On May 29, the Stoddard was sent to Okinawa. The Okinawa Campaign was well underway when she arrived. She immediately took up picket patrol when entering the area and provided gun support and escort services. The destroyer claimed two confirmed Kamikaze kills, two assists and one probable kill of an enemy aircraft during this mission.
On June 17, the Stoddard left Okinawa and arrived in San Pedro Bay for supplies and repairs. For the next month and a half she performed patrols as a guard for aircraft carriers and made many strikes against the Japanese islands. She continued to patrol Japanese waters after the surrender. The Stoddard returned to the U.S. on December 23 and began an immediate overhaul. She was decommissioned in January 1947 and added to the Atlantic Reserve Fleet.
The Stoddard was reactivated in 1950 and joined the 6th fleet for maneuvers in the Caribbean and the Mediterranean. In 1954 she was sent to join the Pacific Fleet. From 1955 to 1966 the Stoddard performed duties in and around the Pacific, with most duties centered around Hawaii.
In November 1966 the Stoddard left for her first tour in Vietnam. The ship completed three tours in Vietnam and was an important part of the Sea Dragon Campaign. During this campaign the ship had 26 confirmed small vessel kills. On her last tour she was struck by a direct enemy hit when she stopped to rescue an American. The ship, however, was able to continue protecting the aircraft carrier she was with until the end of the battle.
After the War
The USS Stoddard returned to San Diego where she was decommissioned in September 1969. She was added to the Pacific Reserve Fleet where she remained until 1975. The Stoddard was struck from the Navy on June 1, 1975. She was sunk July 22, 1997, in a training exercise.
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.