USS Yarnell DD-541 (1943-1974)

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The USS Yarnell DD-451 was the second Navy ship by that name, a Fletcher class destroyer built during World War II. She received seven battle stars during World War II and two during the Korean War.  The Yarnell was built by Bethlehem Steel in San Francisco and launched on July 25, 1943, with Mrs. Earl Groves as sponsor. The destroyer was commissioned on December 30 and began by cruising the California coast. Her first captain was Commander Benjamin F. Tompkins. She arrived in Oahu on March 19 and continued her training with the Fleet.

Action in World War II

On May 31, 1944, the Yarnell left Hawaii with Task Group 52.17 and was assigned to support the Fleet during the assault on Saipan in the Mariana Islands. During the landing on June 15, the destroyer carried out her first fire assault, taking out a pillbox and repulsing the enemy defending Saipan.  She was attack by Japanese aircraft on June 19 when the Mitsubishi AM6 attacked the Stockham and then the Yarnell, she was able to shoot it down.  The Yarnell patrolled the Marianas area until August 16, when she returned to the Marshall Islands.

On October 6, the Yarnell sailed with the Fast Carrier Task Force to begin the attack of Japanese bases on Formosa. After this three day battle, she sailed to Luzon to assist in the Battle of Leyte Gulf. Returning to the Luzon area, the destroyer screened aircraft carriers and provided shore bombardment until November with the Task Group 38.1, which resumed attacks on Formosa and Luzon in the beginning of 1945. On January 9, the group sailed to the South China Sea and attacked Japanese installations at Saigon, Hong Kong, and other ports.

The Yarnell sailed with the Task Group and began bombardment for the invasion of Iwo Jima with attacks on the Japanese home islands. During a practice run at night on March 4, the Yarnell collided with the Ringgold and sustained damage causing her to retreat to Mare Island for repairs.  She returned to the Pacific theater on July 2 in Hawaii and patrolled this area until the end of the war. She then helped control Tokyo Harbor while the peace treaties were being signed.  She returned to San Diego on September 31 was decommissioned in January of the next year. But the Yarnell’s service was not done yet.

Service in Korea

The Yarnell was ordered out of mothballs and recommissioned on February 8, 1951. Beginning on June 10, she assisted Task Force 77 by screening the carriers and providing bombardment to shore positions in support of United Nations forces. In December, she returned to Mare Island for an overhaul and upgrade and did not return to the Korean area until August 1952. Once there she continued to support TF-77 carriers and ships and assisted with the attack on Wonsan. She returned to San Diego, and the Korean War ended in July 1953 before she returned to duty. Yarnell continued to see duty with the Pacific Fleet until she was decommissioned in September 1958.

After the War

After 10 years in mothballs, the Yarnell was loaned to Taiwan and saw service as the ROCS Kun Yung. Her name was removed from the Naval Vessel Register in 1974, when the Taiwanese formally purchased her. In 1999, she was stricken from the list of Taiwanese vessels.

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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