USS Capps (DD-550)
The USS Capps (DD-550) was commissioned in the US Navy for less than a decade in the early 20th century, but remained on file until 1972 and also served with the Spanish Navy. She was named for Rear Admiral Washington Lee Capps who served as Constructor of the Navy and with various other naval boards and committees. Capps was built as a Fletcher-class ship.
Capps was laid down at Chickasaw, Alabama by the Gulf Shipbuilding Corporation in June 1941, launched in May 1942, and commissioned in June 1943 with Commander B.E.S. Trippensee in command. Carrying a crew of 273, Capps was armed with five 5-inch anti-aircraft guns, four 1.1-inch anti-aircraft guns, four 20 mm anti-aircraft guns, and ten 21-inch torpedo tubes.
Capps was deployed from New York to Scotland in September 1943, and operated with the British Home Fleet. In October, Capps participated on a raid of German shipping in Norway, and returned to base at Scapa Flow, Scotland after dodging attacks by German aircraft. She also served as a convoy escort and hunted for German battleships during this deployment.
Capps sailed for Boston in December and escorted a troop convoy from New Orleans and arrived at Pearl Harbor in January 1944. The destroyer set sail with another convoy to Funafuti and commenced patrol operations off Makin and Kwajalein at the start of the Marshall Islands campaign. Plagued by boiler problems, Capps returned to San Francisco and was assigned to escort, anti-submarine, and anti-aircraft duties off Majuro in April. Capps was then assigned to screening forces during the invasion of the Marinara Islands, protected carriers during air strikes at Manila, and then served with underwater demolition teams at Iwo Jima in February 1945.
Capps remained at the front lines at Iwo Jima for three weeks, and then screened escort carriers on the way to Okinawa. During this deployment, Capps rescued pilots and repelled kamikaze attacks, and was ordered to Long Beach, California in July to be decommissioned in January 1947. Capps, honored with seven battle stars during World War II, was loaned to Spain and renamed Lepanto in May 1957, was stricken from the Navy list in October 1972, and used for scrap in December 1985.
Asbestos Risk on the USS Capps (DD-550)
All the crew sailing aboard or repairing the Capps may have handled asbestos parts or worked in areas contaminated by asbestos. Fletcher-class ships were built before the dangers of asbestos were fully known, so Navy veterans of this era were not often adequately protected from the dust damaged and worn asbestos products can release. Sailors in the engineering sections, handling machinery, putting out fires, or conducting repairs have the highest risk. Asbestos fibers have been conclusively linked with a number of serious illnesses, including mesothelioma.
Haze Gray & Underway. Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships. DD-550.
NavSource Naval History, USS Capps (DD-550).