USS Strong DD 758 (1941-1943)
The USS Strong DD 758, named for the Naval hero who served at the Battle of Mobile Bay, Rear Admiral James H. Strong, was a Fletcher-class destroyer that received two battle stars for her service in World War II. She was the first naval vessel to be named Strong, with a second USS Strong launched in 1944 following the first’s sinking in 1943.
Built by the Bath Iron Works in Bath, Maine in the spring of 1941, she was launched the following May sponsored by Mrs. Hobart Olson. When commissioned later that summer, the Strong had Commander Joseph H. Wellings in command.
Action in World War II
The Strong’s first cruise following shakedown was to Puerto Rico on convoy duty and she returned to Norfolk in late October and ultimately went on to New York. She sailed for North African ports by mid-November, and returned to Norfolk by the end of the year. Throughout early 1943, Strong was on convoy duty in Pacific Waters around New Hebrides, the Society Islands, and ultimately the Solomon Islands for patrol off Guadalcanal. As part of a task force of four naval vessels patrolling the islands, the Strong was instrumental in destroying a Japanese attack submarine, RO-34, by opening fire with all guns and delivering depth charges which helped to finish off the Japanese submarine. During a mid-May attack of more than a dozen Japanese dive bombers around Guadalcanal, the Strong managed to splash three of the attackers.
During an enemy attack while on patrol the morning of July 5, the Strong entered Bairoko Harbor to provide support through advance shelling. She was soon hit port side aft by one of the Japanese torpedoes fired by the destroyers led by Niizuki. Aided by the Chevalier, the Strong managed to get 241 of her crew members to safety within 7 minutes. During the rescue operation, Japanese gunners let loose with high explosives, causing the Chevalier to cease rescue operations and causing the Strong to list to starboard and ultimately break in half just prior to sinking. Further explosions from depth charges led to the deaths of forty-six of the Strong’s crew members. The Strong’s name was struck from the Registry of Naval Vessels on July 15, 1943.
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.