The USS Strong (DD-467), a Fletcher-class destroyer, was built by Bath Iron Works, Bath, Maine, and launched on May 17, 1942. She was commissioned on August 7, her commanding officer Comdr. Joseph H. Wellings.
Action in World War II
The Strong completed shakedown, sailing for San Juan, Puerto Rico on convoy duty October 15, returning to Norfolk October 27. She was then assigned to escort duty out of New York, sailing with convoy UGS-2 to North Africa. At Casablanca she was assigned as escort for GUF-2 to New York, and then she returned to Norfolk. Following this, the Strong sailed for Noumea, arriving January 27, 1945. Along with the USS Cony, the Strong sailed for Espiritu Santo as an escort, departing February 1. Assigned to the Solomon Islands for patrol off Guadalcanal, she was then reassigned to Task Force 67 on February 13.
On March 14, the Strong, the USS Radford, USS Nicholas and USS Taylor sailed to Kolombangara Island. Two days later, they bombed enemy posts along the shore, and then returned to the Solomons. Early on April 5, the Strong detected a radar contact at just over five miles: a Japanese submarine. The USS O’Bannon and the Strong attacked, sinking the submarine.
Early on May 7 she escorted minelayers at Blackett Strait. Their efforts paid off the next morning when four Japanese destroyers entered the minefield; one sank, two incurred damage and were finished off by air support, and one was damaged but escaped. After bombing Kolombangara on the nights of May 12 and 13 with the help of Task Force 18, she headed for Guadalcanal. During afternoon patrol June 16, a squadron of about 15 Japanese planes attacked. The Strong took out three of the planes as they approached.
Destruction at Bairoko Harbor
During landings at Rice Anchorage on July 5, Task Force 18 supported American troops with cover fire. The Nicholas and the Strong scouted ahead, bombing the harbor shortly after midnight. Minutes later, the wake from a torpedo was spotted, but hit the Strong before the bridge was notified. The USS Chevalier aided the Strong, rescuing 241 members of the crew in roughly seven minutes. Japanese star shells and high explosives had begun raining over the area, the USS O’Bannon trying to protect the Strong as enemy shells began hitting her. The Chevalier was forced to flee. Strong began to list to starboard, breaking in half then sinking. Depth charges exploding as she sank, causing additional injuries and fatalities. Forty-six men went down with her.
The USS Strong was struck from the Navy Register July 15, 1943. For service in World War II, Strong was awarded two battle stars.
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.