USS Williamson DD-244 (1920-1945)
The USS Williamson DD-244 was laid down on March 27, 1919, and built by the New York Shipbuilding Corporation. The Clemson class destroyer had a length of 314 feet and four inches. She weighed 1,190 tons and could sail at 35 knots per hour. The Williamson had a complement of 122 officers and enlisted men. She was launched on October 16, 1919, and commissioned on October 29, 1920 with Lieutenant Commander J.C. Cunningham in command of the vessel.
Between the Wars
She sailed from New York on January 3, 1921. Headed for Europe, she arrived at Brest, France, the middle of February. On May 23 she then sailed for the Mediterranean. In the following months she landed passengers and monitored the local political conditions. She also cruised from Constantinople to Odessa, Russia, and other locations. Later she joined the Atlantic Fleet. During the next few years her routine remained quite consistent as she cruised off the east coast of the U.S. into the Caribbean.
During the 1930s she participated in the Fleet Problem XIX. She returned to Philadelphia where she was converted to a light seaplane tender. The Williamson, along with the USS Childs, became a trailblazer for this experimental type of ship. She departed Philadelphia on January 3, 1939, sailing to Norfolk. She took on material and men before heading to the Florida Keys. On April 21 she sailed to the West Coast. She made Seattle her port before sailing to Kodiak, Alaska. A short time later war broke out in Europe when Poland was invaded by Germany.
Action in World War II
During the beginning of the war the Williamson performed escort missions while delivering war materials to various Army and Navy bases. In 1943 there were more modern AVP’s entering the fleets. This caused the Williamson’s tending planes to be of little value. Therefore, she was sent to serve to support the shakedown training of escort carriers. In early 1945 she joined the 5th Fleet where she sortied from Pearl Harbor. She eventually performed her services for the bombardment phase of the Iwo Jima operation. She then sailed for the West Coast.
After the War
She arrived in San Diego in September 1945. The following month she reached Philadelphia. The USS Williamson DD-244 was decommissioned on November 8. She was then removed from the Navy List on December 19, 1945. On November 4, 1948, she was sold for scrapping to the North American Smelting Company. The destroyer was awarded four battle stars for her service.
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.