The USS Wilson DD-408 was constructed at the Puget Sound Navy Yard in Bremerton, Washington. The Benham-class destroyer weighed 1500 tons. She was put into commission in July of 1939, and for the next nine months she had duties on the west coasts of South and Central America, as well as the United States. She made her way to Hawaii in April of 1940 and joined Fleet Problem XXI. She spent the next 12 months around Hawaii, and was then sent to the waters of the Atlantic in June 1941. She served duty as an escort off the east coast for the end of 1941 into early 1942. She was then sent to the British Isles and Iceland, sailing these from March through May of 1942.
Action in World War II
The USS Wilson was sent back to the Pacific to act as an escort for the USS Wasp, bringing her safely to the South Pacific in July of 1942. In August, when the U.S. landings at Tulagi and Guadalcanal occurred, she provided fire and anti-aircraft services. During the Battle of Savo Island, she fought off cruisers from Japan, and helped pick up survivors from three sunken cruisers: the Astoria, Vincennes and Quincy.
After these battles she was sent to California for general repairs. When finished, in January of 1943, she was sent back to Guadalcanal to take part in the end of battles there. After this she participated in escort duty near the Solomons, bombardment of New Georgia and the Russell Islands landings. She guarded United States carriers for attacks on Nauru and Rabaul in November of 1943. She had the same job in the Caroline Islands and the Marshalls during January and February of 1944.
The USS Wilson next joined carrier task forces to take part in the Battle of the Philippine Sea and the Marianas campaign during June and July. During this time, near Guam, she fired her guns at shore targets and small vessels. From August until October of 1944, she received minor repairs. She next served as an escort for a convoy to Mindoro and had to stave off suicide planes during this cruise in December. She was attacked again on her next mission in January, as she did duty for the Lingayen Gulf invasion. She next made her way to Okinawa, where a Kamikaze attacked her. Five crew members died, but the damage was minimal, so she continued until June in Okinawa. She was then sent to participate in Saipan until the end of the war.
After the War
Serving occupation duties until December of 1945, she was then sent to the United States west coast. She stayed there until May of 1946, when she helped with Operation Crossroads on target duty. After becoming radioactive at Bikini because of atomic bomb tests, she was put out of commission in August of 1946 and scuttled on March 8, 1948, near Kwajalein.
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.