The USS Wedderburn was constructed by the Bethlehem Steel Company on January 10, 1943. She was a Fletcher Class destroyer with 2,050 tons of displacement. The Wedderburn was launched on August 1, 1943, and commissioned the following year under the command of Commander John L. Wilfong.
Action in World War II
After completing shakedown and initial training, the Wedderburn was assigned to Pearl Harbor, sailing there with the Fieberling. After arriving the two ships were assigned to patrol missions and ASW (Anti Submarine Warfare). They remained in Pearl Harbor for a brief period before proceeding to the invasion of the Marshall Islands. Following that operation, they joined Task Force 53 in the Marianas.
In the latter part of 1944, the Wedderburn continued on guard duty, conducting both patrol missions and convoying with aircraft carriers. She was present at the battle for Leyte Gulf, where she screened the Allied aircraft carriers from incoming enemy planes. After completing her work at Leyte, she remained near the coast of Luzon with Task Group 38. Near the end of year, in December, the Wedderburn participated in search and rescue missions for the survivors of ships that sank in the record-breaking typhoon of December 1944.
After a brief retrofit and repair at Ulithi, the Wedderburn re-entered the action, this time at the attack on Lingayen. There, she again protected the carriers against enemy threats and also bombarded shore installations in support of ground forces. Following the conversion of the 3rd Fleet into the 5th Fleet, the Wedderburn and her Task Force headed to Iwo Jima, where they assaulted the Volcano Islands. After the invasion on February 16, 1945, the attack force launched the first air strike in the war against Tokyo, Japan’s capital. In this assault, the American forces landed a devastating strike, destroying over 700 planes as well as sinking a carrier.
After the War
After the end of the war, she was decommissioned in March of 1946 and assigned to the Pacific Reserve Fleet. She was reactivated for a brief period of time a few years later in order to train reserve sailors, as well as to support U.N. forces in the Korean War. She was decommissioned again on October 1, 1969, and later sold as scrap metal to Dhon’s Iron and Steel Company. Overall, she earned seven battle stars for her service in World War II, four for service in Korea, and six for service 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.