The USS Caperton (DD-650) was commissioned by the US Navy for over two-and-a-half decades in the mid-20th century. She was named for William B. Caperton who served as Commander-in-Chief, Pacific Fleet. Caperton was a member of the Fletcher class of naval destroyers.
Caperton was laid down at Bath, Maine by Bath Iron Works in January 1943, launched in May, and commissioned in July with Commander W.J. Miller in command. Carrying a crew of 273, Caperton was 376 feet five inches long and 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.
Caperton was deployed from Boston to Pearl Harbor in October 1943, and conducted patrols at the Gilbert Islands from November to January 1944. The destroyer took part in the Kwajalein bombardment at the end of January, and then served during the air strikes at Truck and Saipan in February. Caperton also served during the invasion of Emirau Island and the air attacks at Palau, Yap, Ulithi, and Woleai in March, before engaging enemy forces at the Battle of the Philippine Sea in June. During the battle, Caperton protected American aircraft carriers, and then conducted lifeguard operations during the assault on Guam.
Operating in the Mariana Islands through July, Caperton then served with Task Force 38 for air strikes on Palaus, Mindanao, and Luzon in the Philippines, and also protected the group for the Battle for Leyte Gulf. Based at Ulithi, Caperton continued supporting the Philippine invasion and rescued survivors of torpedoed Reno in November 1944. Caperton remained on picket duty at Okinawa in May and June 1945, and commenced occupation duty at Tokyo when the war ended.
Caperton was decommissioned in July 1949 at Charleston, South Carolina, and returned to service in April 1951. After sailing to Europe and operating in the Caribbean, Caperton was deployed to Japan in June 1953 and then to Korea. Caperton sailed around the world back to Newport, Rhode Island in May 1954, and operated for five months off Europe in 1954, with NATO forces, returning there repeatedly to serve with NATO and with the 6th Fleet. She was decommissioned in April 1960 and sunk during naval training exercises in the mid-1980s.
Asbestos Risk on the USS Caperton (DD-650)
Sailors aboard the USS Caperton faced potentially hazardous levels of asbestos contamination. The dangerous mineral was used in systems throughout the ship, most often in and around the engines, and in the pipe coverings of insulated pipes. When asbestos products are worn or damaged, they can release nearly invisible fibers into the surrounding air. Inhaling or ingesting these particles can cause significant health problems later in life, including mesothelioma.
The Caperton sailed before the dangers of asbestos were fully realized. Crewmembers that handled these materials often did so without adequate protection. Many Navy veterans from this time suffered serious illnesses as a result of their service. If you or someone you love was so affected, you may be able to seek compensation for you injury. A qualified mesothelioma lawyer can tell you more.Sources
Haze Gray & Underway. Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships. DD-650.
NavSource Naval History. USS Caperton (DD-650).