USS Trathen DD-530 (1943-1972)
The U.S. Navy honored Commander James Trathen by naming the USS Trathen DD 530 after him. Lieutenant Trathen was the commander of the 1861 USS Midnight during the period of the American Civil War. The Trathen was a Fletcher class destroyer laid down by Bethlehem Steel Company in San Francisco, California, on March 17, 1942. She was commissioned with Commander Alvoord J. Greenacre in command on May 28, 1943.
Action in World War II
After training operations were completed in Hawaii, the destroyer merged with Rear Admiral Willis A. Lee’s TF (Task Force) 11 to be a part of the reoccupation of Baker Island. The targeted island was necessary for launching photo reconnaissance and aerial search missions against the Japanese. In the invasion, the Trathen helped direct U.S. planes and took out a Japanese spy plane before it could radio any information back to the enemy. The group successfully retook the island.
At the end of the year, the Trathen helped escort the SS Mormacport back to Hawaii, then headed out at the beginning of 1944 for the Marshalls. The Trathen provided gunfire support for the attacks on Kwajalein and Eniwetok, after which she patrolled the Solomon Islands and joined up with the Seventh Fleet. Over the next few months, she would help retake Wakde Island, Biak Island, and Noemfoor Island. Patrols in the Philippines and Caroline Islands followed.
The Trathen screened for carriers at the invasion of Iwo Jima and the first strikes against Tokyo in February of 1945. The next few months saw her support repeated attacks on the Japanese Home Islands. She was nearly hit by a kamikaze plane near Okinawa, but it was downed by an Allied fighter before it could impact the destroyer. The Trathen weathered out a typhoon at Ulithi in June, then rescued the two-man crew of a crashed U.S. bomber.
After the War
Though decommissioned on January 18, 1946, the Trathen was called back into service in 1951, patrolling the U.S. east coast before being sent to the Far East to assist in operations in and around Korea. After that deployment was over, she returned to the Atlantic fleet, where she served until 1955, when she was moved to the Pacific Fleet.
She served very briefly in the Vietnam War at the end of 1964, but was decommissioned once again the next year and soon determined to be unfit for modernizations. Her name was struck from the naval register in 1972, and she was sunk as a target the next year. Overall, the USS Trathen earned eight battle stars for World War II and one for Korea.
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.