USS Thorn DD-647 (1943-1946)

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The USS Thorn (DD-647) was a 1,600 ton Gleaves class destroyer built at Kearny, New Jersey, and commissioned on April 1, 1943. She was named after naval commander Jonathan Thorn who was slain by Indians in 1811 while on expedition in the Pacific Northwest.

Action in World War II

The Thorn conducted shakedown and then joined Destroyer Squadron 19. From May 1943 to January 1944 she escorted four convoy missions to Casablanca. The day after she arrived back in New York, her fellow destroyer the USS Turner exploded and sank in Ambrose Channel. The Thorn sent a small boat party which rescued three survivors. Later that month the ship sailed for Pacific waters and arrived in New Guinea on February 29, 1944. From there she moved to the Admiralty Islands to support invasion operations, providing shore bombardments and acting as fighter director.

While preparing for the landings at Hollandia, the Thorn struck an uncharted reef on April 10. The resulting damage sent the ship back to Hunter’s Point, California, for repair and overhaul. The Thorn then escorted the USS Mississippi on the way back to Pearl Harbor. As part of the landings on the Palaus the ship rescued the crews of three ditched torpedo planes. She screened battleships and cruisers during the initial assaults on the Philippines, downing an enemy aircraft on October 21. She fired 17 salvos at a Japanese destroyer at Surigao Strait, scoring 12 hits.

The Thorn was recalled to Ulithi on October 26 but rejoined the fight in the Philippines in November. The ship assisted the USS Cape Esperance during the December typhoon. The Thorn was then assigned escort duty with a fast oiler group supporting the carriers for strikes on Lingayen. Returning to Ulithi, she rescued two downed aviators.

The Thorn took part in the Iwo Jima operation and the attacks on the Ryukyus, dropping depth charges on March 25, 1945. She escorted oilers in support of the Okinawa operation. Following replenishment at Ulithi, the destroyer resumed escort operations through the end of the war and remained in Japan until October 8. With the home-bound pennant flying, she headed back to homeport via Singapore, Colombo and Cape Town. She arrived at New York on December 7, 1945.

After the War

Following a one month overhaul, the ship proceeded to Charleston, South Carolina. She was decommissioned on May 6, 1946, and placed in reserve. Stricken from the Naval Register in 1971, she was authorized as a target ship. Aircraft from the USS America sank the Thorn in November 1973.  The destroyer was awarded seven Battle Stars for service in World War II.

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.


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