USS Walke DD-723 (1944-1974)
The third Walke, the DD-723, was laid down in Bath, Maine. She was launched in October of 1943. After she was outfitted at Boston’s Navy Yard, the Walke headed out to visit the District of Columbia before heading south to Bermuda for shakedown training. She returned to Boston in March of 1944 until she went to Norfolk for over-the-stern, high-speed fueling exercises in the company of the Aucilla for the Bureau of Ships.
Action in World War II
Arriving in Scottish waters on May 24, the Walke took part in the Normandy invasion the following month, bombarding the shores and repelling German counterattacks. She left Europe in July and was sent to the Pacific while screening for the aircraft carrier USS Ticonderoga. After performing more screening duty in the Philippines, she assisted with troop landings and rescued a fellow destroyer’s crew after the ship was struck by kamikaze planes.
The Walke participated in the invasion of Luzon at the beginning of 1945, but was struck by a Japanese plane and lost power. Only the heroic efforts of her crew and Commander George F. Davis kept her from sinking, but the commander soon died of wounds and burned sustained in the attack. The Walk underwent a series of repairs that allowed her to join the campaign at Okinawa on April 10. She remained in the Pacific after the Japanese surrender, heading back to the U.S. on September 30.
As a part of Task Force 77, in 1951 the Walke was called upon for antisubmarine duty in the Korean War, where a mine damaged her and killed 26 members of her crew. Over the next decade and a half, she alternated between patrols in the Far East and the U.S. west coast. This duty continued throughout the Vietnam War, in which the Walke provided gunfire support and antisubmarine screening.
After the War
The last year of the Walke’s active service was spent on the west coast. On November 30, 1970, she was decommissioned in Puget Sound’s Naval Yard. She was struck from the Navy List in 1974 and scrapped in April of 1975. The USS Walke earned a total of six battle stars for her efforts during the Second World War, four for her work in Korea, and seven for her efforts in Vietnam.
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.