USS Waller DD-466 (1942-1969)

Named for Major General Littleton Waller Tazewell Waller, the Fletcher-class destroyer USS Waller (DD-466) was laid down February 12, 1942, at the Federal Shipbuilding and Drydock Company of Kearny, New Jersey. Launched on August 15 and commissioned October 1, the Waller underwent a series of short shakedown and escort cruises in the Atlantic before departing for the Pacific Theater on November 30.

Action in World War II

Joining TF 18, the Waller participated in the Battle of the Rennell Islands against land-based Japanese G4M “Betty” torpedo bombers and was credited with one aircraft shot down and two damaged. The primary outcome of the battle was the loss of the heavy cruiser USS Chicago (CA-29). The Waller assisted with operations that resulted in the rescue of 1049 survivors from the shark-infested waters.

The Waller served in the invasion of New Georgia and subsequent night-time naval operations in the area, including the raid on Japanese-held Vila that resulted in the loss of Japanese destroyers Murasame and Minegumo to combined American torpedo and gunfire attacks. The Waller also participated in the Battle of Kolombangara, which added two additional Japanese destroyers, Niizuki and Nagatsuki, to the loss column but at the expense of the powerful Brooklyn-class light cruiser USS Helena, which was destroyed by hits from two of Japan’s fearsome Long Lance torpedoes. She continued operations in the Solomons area for the rest of 1943 and early 1944 before joining the invasion fleets that liberated Guam, the Philippines (in which she sank the Japanese submarine I-46 with gunfire), and Borneo. Slated for action in the invasion of the Home Islands of Japan, the Waller was instead used to support Allied disarmament operations on the southern coast of China after the abrupt surrender of Japan following the atomic bomb attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

After the War

She was placed in reserve and reactivated for service in the Korean War as a fire support ship. After peacetime deployments to the Mediterranean and Caribbean on ASW assignment, the Waller served in the Vietnam War as a carrier escort and again as an offshore fire support vessel.

The USS Waller was stricken from the Navy list on July 15, 1969, and authorized for disposal as a target on February 2, 1970. The Waller received a total of 16 battle stars for her service to the nation-- twelve from Pacific operations in the Second World War, two from the Korean War and two from the Vietnam War.

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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