The USS Swanson DD-443 was awarded 8 battle stars for her meritorious service during World War II. A Gleaves-class Naval destroyer constructed by the Charleston Navy Yard in 1939, she was named after Secretary of the Navy Claude A. Swanson. Sponsored by Swanson’s widow and launched in November of 1940, the Swanson had Lieutenant Commander M.P. Kingsley in command when she was commissioned in the spring of 1941.
Action in World War II
Following shakedown exercises, the Swanson participated in escort and convoy duties between Bermuda, Iceland, and New England, escorting such ships as the Washington and the North Carolina, both battleships, as well as the aircraft carrier, the Hornet. Following the attack on Pearl Harbor in December of 1941, her convoy duties were extended to the waters around Scotland, Nova Scotia, and Greenland as well.
After training in amphibious operations in Chesapeake Bay, the Swanson was ready to join the invasion fleet headed for French South Africa, where she engaged in returning fire against French shore batteries, finally departing for the open seas again to serve convoy duty. Throughout November of 1942, the Swanson was successful in helping to sink invading German U-boat forces.
Following a brief stint handling convoy duty in Atlantic waters, the Swanson started sailing toward the Mediterranean Sea to join the Sicily invasion forces. After a collision with a fellow fire support ship off the coast of Sicily, the Roe, the Swanson departed for Malta to undergo repairs to her damaged fire room before sailing home to the U.S. Mainland and the Brooklyn Navy Yard by the following summer.
She then continued with escort duties in the North Atlantic before leaving for her next assignment with the 7th Fleet off the coast of New Guinea, providing gunfire support during numerous assaults through the summer of 1944. In the naval attack against U.S. forces at Leyte, the Swanson was instrumental in turning back approaching Japanese forces in addition to destroying and sinking the Japanese battleship, the Musashi. By late October, the Swanson became part of the escort patrol group based on the Island of Saipan. For the remainder of 1944 and into the early part of 1945, the Swanson was relied upon by Allied forces for numerous air-sea rescue operations.
Following a brief overhaul at Puget Sound Navy Yard, the Swanson returned to the Pacific Theatre for additional patrol and escort duties in and around Iwo Jima. The Swanson sailed back to the U.S. by September of 1945 and was decommissioned in December, placed in reserve at Charleston, South Carolina. Struck from the Registry of Naval Vessels in 1971, the Swanson was scrapped the following year.
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.