The USS Zane was a Naval destroyer named for Randolf T. Zane, a major in the Marines. Major Zane fought on the front lines in France during WWI and was wounded at Belleau Wood in 1918; he died from his injuries soon after. The USS Zane was built in 1919 at Mare Island in California and commissioned in 1921.
She joined Destroyer Division 14 in the Philippines before moving on to China, sometimes based at Chinwangtao, the seaport at the base of the Great Wall. Zane went back to California in 1922 and was decommissioned in February 1923. Seven years later she was recommissioned and spent the 1930s as part of the 2nd Destroyer Flotilla. In 1940, the Zane was converted to a high speed minesweeper and sent to Hawaii.
Action in World War II
She was there on December 7, 1941 and took part in defending Pearl Harbor during the Japanese attack. In August 1942, the Zane helped sweep for mines during the attack on the Solomon Islands. On 25 October while delivering supplies, she was caught in a sea fight with three Japanese destroyers. Three of her men were killed when a shell hit the ship. When the Solomons were secured, the Zane joined Task Unit 61 to begin “island hopping,” starting with the Russell Islands in February 1943 then on to New Georgia where she was grounded and damaged during bad weather. She then had to head back to California for repairs.
The next mission for the Zane was Operation Flintlock, the invasion of the Marshall Islands in January 1944. She joined Task Unit 52 to escort transport ships in the Southern Attack Force and operated as a minesweeper and mine disposal ship. When mines exploded within 100 yards at Eniwetok, the destroyer suffered some damage.
In March, the Zane became part of Task Group 12 for Operation Forager. With the Minesweeping and Hydrographic Survey Group, the Zane’s job was mine destruction and disposal as well as laying down buoys. When troops were unloaded at Guam on July22, the Zane became an antisubmarine escort ship with Task Group 53. This was to be Zane’s last mission on the front lines. She spent the rest of the war as a target-towing ship and escort in the Palaus, Marianas, Carolines and Philippines.
After the War
She was reclassified as a miscellaneous auxiliary on 5 June 1945. In December, the Zane was decommissioned in Norfolk, Virginia. She was struck from the Naval record in 1946 and scrapped the next year. For her service in World War II, the USS Zane received six battle stars and the Navy Unit Commendation for Guadalcanal.
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.