USS Worden DD-352 (1934–1944)
The US naval destroyer the Worden served in World War Two and earned four battle stars for its service. The Worden is named for Capt. John Lorimer Worden (1818-1987). Worden retired with the rank of Rear Admiral two days before Christmas 1886, and is best known for his command of the Union ironclad vessel the Monitor, which engaged in three-hour exchange of brutal firepower with a Confederate ironclad called the Virginia on the ninth of March in 1862. Interestingly, it was a battle that ended in a draw, with Worden suffering wounds to his face when a Confederate shell hit close to the pilot house.
Action in World War II
After her commission in the middle of January 1935, and following a post-inaugural cruise’s repairs and gun battery renovations, the Worden’s pre-WW2 duties were broken by a command to join the Neutrality Patrol set about by the Fleet’s redirection of cruisers and destroyers to Pearl Harbor and the waters about the Hawaiian Islands. On the day of Japan’s surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, the Worden did not suffer damage as it was being maintenanced in an out-of-the-way port. The Worden immediately put out to sea to address the enemy submarine threat.
The Worden headed back to Pearl Harbor after activities in the Pacific and the Battle of Midway which drove back the Japanese armada. Then it escorted a restored carrier, the Saratoga, to Midway before returning again to Hawaii. During further Pacific wartime maneuvers, the Worden collaborated again with the Saratoga and other Naval vessels such as the Dewey, the Enterprise, and the Platte. Along with the Saratoga, the Worden and other ships of the Fleet covered 20,000 marines during a shore pre-landing bombardment that later contributed to the eviction of the Japanese from Guadalcanal Island.
Twelve days into 1943, after the Worden set out from the San Francisco Bay on the 27th of December, for Alaska’s Dutch Harbor near Amchitka Island to guard the transport ship the Arthur Middleton while it released the Army’s initial security patrol in support of the island’s occupation. The Aleutian Sea issued a powerful current into the treacherous harbor where the Worden idled while the Army unit performed its work on shore. The current pushed the Worden into marine rock that opened the hull below the engine room and suddenly left her without power. Shore rock continued to damage the hull severely, and fourteen of the Worden’s crew were lost in the mayhem that led to the destroyer’s total loss and, sadly, deletion from the Fleet ranks.
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.