A Somers-class destroyer, the USS Warrington DD-383 was the second vessel of the U.S. Navy named for Lewis Warrington, a Navy officer during the War of 1812 and the Barbary Wars. The Warrington was laid down at Kearny, New Jersey on October 10, 1935, by Drydock Company and the Federal Shipbuilding, sponsored by Miss Katherine Taft Chubb, and launched on May 15, 1937. She received her commission on February 9, 1938, at New York Navy Yard with command by Commander Leighton Wood.
The destroyer returned to New York on May 24, following a cruise to the West Indies, and then performed tactical training off the Virginia Capes and Cape Cod. The Warrington also participated in exercises with the ships of Submarine Division 4 in the waters near New London. During the middle of February 1939, the destroyer reported to Key West in order to serve as an escort for the Houston, the cruiser carrying President Franklin D. Roosevelt and Admiral William D. Leahy, Chief of Naval Operations.
Action in World War II
Later that year, the Warrington departed for the Pacific and her new home port of San Diego. She spent about a year training out of Pearl Harbor, but was docked in the navy yard in Charleston, South Carolina, for repairs when the Japanese attacked. After a brief Atlantic patrol, she returned to the Pacific for escort and submarine patrol duty. In June of 1943, she began convoy duty throughout the southwestern Pacific, and later that year participated in the invasion at Bougainville, where she downed one Japanese plane and helped down another.
On May 26, 1944, the Warrington took on her first shore bombardment mission on Wakde Island, followed by a visit to Biak Island to provide gunfire support for ground troops. After stops at Manus and Espiritu Santo, she returned to New York for repairs, leaving on September 10 with the USS Hyades for Trinidad.
Destruction Along the Florida Coast
On the evening of September 12, the two ships sailed directly into an oncoming hurricane. The Hyades was able to keep going, but the Warrington was forced to anchor. She survived the night, but early the next morning, water began pouring through her vents, cutting her electrical power and taking out her steering. At noon, the crew was ordered to evacuate, and the ship sank less than an hour later. Only 73 men out of the 321 aboard were rescued. For service in World War II, the USS Warrington received two battle stars.
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.