The USS Porterfield (DD-682) was commissioned by the U.S. Navy for over two and a half decades in the mid-20th century, and received a total of 14 battle stars for her wartime service. She was named for Rear Admiral Lewis Broughton Porterfield who served in World War I. Porterfield was laid down as a Fletcher-class destroyer.
Porterfield was laid down at San Pedro, California by the Bethlehem Steel Corporation in December 1942, launched in June 1943, and commissioned in October with Commander J. C. Woefel in command. Supporting a crew complement of 273 and able to cruise at 38 knots, Porterfield was armed with ten 21-inch torpedo tubes, five 5-inch anti-aircraft guns, four 20-millimeter anti-aircraft guns, and four 1.1 inch anti-aircraft guns.
Porterfield began her wartime duties with shore bombardment in the Marshall Islands in January 1944, and then conducted escort service for troop transport vessels and destroyers to Funafuti and Majuro through February. The destroyer then protected oil ships that refueled forces serving at the raids on Yap and Palau, and operated during the invasion of the Mariana Islands and Saipan in the summer.
In August, Porterfield supported the troop landings at the Palaus and served during strikes in the Philippines in September, as well as the major battles there in the remaining months of 1944. Porterfield operated during the invasion of Iwo Jima in February 1945 as well as Kerama Retto and Okinawa in March and April. The destroyer downed several enemy planes during these deployments and was under repair at Puget Sound Navy Yard when the war ended. Porterfield was decommissioned at San Diego in October.
Porterfield resumed naval service in April 1951 and was assigned to Korean waters for duty on both coasts of the country. She returned to San Diego in March 1952 only to return to Korea again from October until May 1953. From then on, Porterfield operated off the California coast and was deployed to the western Pacific several times, which included a tour on the Taiwan Patrol in 1958 and during the Vietnam War in 1964 and 1966. Decommissioned in November 1969, Porterfield was struck from the Navy list in March 1975 and sunk during target practice in July 1982.
Asbestos Risk on the USS Porterfield (DD-682)
On Porterfield, asbestos-containing materials were employed in most compartments, in machinery, and around steam pipes. The engineering sections and boiler rooms had the largest abundance of asbestos products, but no area of the ship was completely free of the mineral. Even paints, cements, adhesives, and ropes contained asbestos fibers. Every crewman aboard Porterfield suffered some exposure to the mineral while serving. There was no way to avoid it.
Sailors stationed in the engine room or performing damage control or firefighting duties had the greatest overall exposure. It is believed that sustained exposure to asbestos poses the most danger, but no level or duration of exposure is thought to be safe. Navy veterans that served in World War II, Korea, and Vietnam have a disproportionately high risk for mesothelioma cancer as a result of their shipboard exposure.
Haze Gray & Underway. Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships. DD-682.
NavSource Naval History. USS Porterfield (DD-682).