The USS Colahan (DD-658) served in the U.S. Navy for over two decades in the mid-20th century. She was named for Commander Charles Ellwood Colahan who served with the U.S. Navy in the late 19th century. Colahan was commissioned as a Fletcher-class destroyer.
Colahan was laid down at Staten Island, New York by the Bethlehem Steel Corporation in October 1942, launched in May 1943, and commissioned in August with Lieutenant Commander D.T. Wilber in command. Carrying a crew of 273, Colahan was 376 feet, five inches long and armed with ten 21-inch torpedo tubes, five 5-inch anti-aircraft guns, four 1.1 inch anti-aircraft guns, and four 20-millimeter anti-aircraft guns.
Colahan joined the Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbor in December 1943. She then served with Task Force 52 during the invasion of the Marshall Islands in January 1944, and after repairs at Pearl Harbor, conducted bombardments, fire support, and radar picket duty during the occupation of Guam in July and August. Colahan also operated during the invasion of Leyte in October, guarding aircraft carriers at the Battle of Surigao Strait as the Battle for Leyte Gulf commenced in late October.
Repaired at Ulithi in December, Colahan returned to duty late in the month and conducted radar picket operations through late January 1945 at Formosa, Luzon, and Hong Kong. Colahan also provided radar picket service off Iwo Jima in February, and then screened carriers during air strikes on Kyushu and Okinawa. When Hazelwood was destroyed by kamikazes, Colahan rescued 140 survivors, and then participated in the air raids on the Japanese home islands. She served as the harbor entrance control vessel for Tokyo Bay in early August until September.
Colahan was in reserve at San Diego from June 1946 until December 1950 and used to train naval reservists. Deployed with the 7th Fleet during the Korean War in August 1951, Colahan participated in shore bombardment and fire support for onshore forces there. Colahan returned to the west coast in March 1952 and served a second tour of Korean waters from November 1952 until June 1953. She returned to the Far East four more times with the 7th Fleet and operated as a training vessel along the west coast from 1958 through 1963. Colahan was decommissioned in August 1966, struck from the Navy list in 1966, and sunk as a training target in December.
Asbestos Risk on the USS Colahan (DD-658)
As asbestos-containing materials were installed in so many places on the USS Colahan that needed fire or heat proofing capability, nearly every member of the crew suffered exposure at some point during their service. Certain jobs risked a greater chance of asbestos contamination, however, including crew members assigned to the engine room, those working on pumps and boilers, or those responsible for handling war damage.
Dockyard and shipyard servicemen were also exposed to asbestos as were immediate family members through the work clothes worn at the job site by the workers and brought back to their homes. Inhaling and ingesting of asbestos can lead to a diagnosis of mesothelioma.
Personnel who worked daily with asbestos insulation over a lengthy period of service are at much higher risk of developing asbestos cancer. Handling of fire-damaged asbestos insulation or damaged ship components exposed Colahan's sailors and yard workers to dangerous quantities of asbestos. As exposure to asbestos is currently the primary known cause for malignant mesothelioma and asbestosis, there are often legal options available for veterans who have developed these conditions.Sources
Haze Gray & Underway. Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships. DD-658.
NavSource Naval History. USS Colahan (DD-658).