USS Woolsey DD-437 (1941-1971)

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The USS Woolsey DD 437 was built on October 9, 1939. The Woolsey joined the Atlantic Fleet in September. At first, she served on the Neutrality Patrol in order to keep the war in Europe from spreading to America. After the attack on Pearl Harbor, her duties changed.

Action in World War II

In 1942, the Woolsey participated in her first invasion called Operation Torch. This involved invading North Africa, which was largely controlled by France.  During that same invasion, the German Navy arrived. The Woolsey was on antisubmarine patrol when she caught the enemy sub’s reflection with her sonar and began to attack, along with the USS Swanson and the USS Quick. The three destroyers coordinated an assault that destroyed U-173. The next day, the Woolsey left the Moroccan coast to return to Hampton Roads.

After a few training sessions, the Woolsey began escorting transatlantic convoys in the middle of January in 1943. This continued on for quite a few months before her last convoy was finished in June. She reported with the 8th Fleet to participate in the invasion of Sicily. During the Sicily assault, she was a fire-support ship for one of three sectors that the Licata beaches were divided. The Woolsey provided gunfire support for the Army and helped to defend Allied shipping of goods from German air attacks.

In August, Sicily was fully secured, and that is when the Woolsey began to prepare for the battle at Italian mainland at Salerno. The destroyer was assigned to the Southern Attack Force fire support group. She helped with the landings on the southern part of the Gulf of Salerno. After completing her mission, she returned to a more normal routine. She traveled between Naples and North African ports to help deliver supplies for the Italian battles.

She encountered the German submarine U-73 while operating near Oran, Algeria, but was able to force the U-boat to surface with a full pattern of attacks.  The Woolsey’s gunners went to work and were able to destroy the enemy sub. The destroyer rescued and made prisoners of the U-boat’s 23 survivors. Beyond that, the Woolsey participated mostly in supporting activities, usually ranging from convoys to assistance with supplies during an assault.

After the War

On February 6th, 1947, the USS Woolsey was placed out of commission. She was towed to Boston in October of 1957. Her name was struck from the Navy list on the first of July in 1971, and she was sold to Andy International, Inc. on May 29, 1974.

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.


Naval Historical Center

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