The USS Franks (DD-554) served in the U.S. Navy for a few short years in the early 20th century and was decommissioned after the end of World War II. She was named for William Joseph Franks who served in the Civil War. Franks was laid down as a Fletcher-class destroyer.
Franks was laid down at Seattle, Washington by the Seattle-Tacoma Shipbuilding Corporation in March 1942, launched in December, and commissioned in July 1943 with Lieutenant Commander N.A. Lidstone in command. Carrying a crew of 273, Franks was armed with five 5-inch anti-aircraft guns, four 1.1-inch anti-aircraft guns, four 20-millimeter anti-aircraft guns, and ten 21-inch torpedo tubes.
Franks was deployed during the invasion of the Gilbert Islands in November, and served as a screen for aircraft carriers during the troop landings at Tarawa. Following repairs at Pearl Harbor, Franks joined the Southern Attack Force in January 1944, for the invasion of Kwajalein. During this deployment, Franks operated as an anti-submarine patrol. Franks conducted convoy and patrol operations in the Solomon Islands beginning in March.
Franks participated in reconnaissance and bombardment missions at Mussau and Kapingamaringi, and then screened minelayers in the Buka Passage later in May. During this deployment, she joined Haggard in the attack and sinking of Japanese submarine I-176. In July, the destroyer was deployed during the pre-invasion bombardment of Guam, and conducted fire support to troops there during the invasion. Franks served as a screening and fighter-director vessel during the Palaus invasion.
In October, Franks served with escort carriers in the Philippines and operated during the Battle for Leyte Gulf as well as the invasion of Mindoro in December. Franks also operated during the invasion of Iwo Jima and aided preparations for the Okinawa assault, serving plane guard duty as the invasion unfolded. In April, Franks collided with New Jersey and her commanding officer was fatally wounded.
Franks underwent temporary repairs at Ulithi, and extensive overhaul at Puget Sound Navy Yard in April. She returned to Eniwetok in August 1945 and was assigned to air-sea rescue and weather station duty in support of flights between Okinawa and Honshu. In May 1946, Franks was placed in reserve at San Pedro, California, struck from the Navy list in December 1972, and sold for scrap in August 1973.
Asbestos Risk on the USS Franks (DD-554)
No matter what the job, service aboard Franks meant exposure to asbestos to at least some degree. Sailors on Franks assigned to the engineering section had a higher level of exposure. Asbestos was deployed as insulation around boilers, in bilge pumps, and in engines. Asbestos pipe covering protected steam pipes throughout the vessel.
Ingested or inhaled asbestos damages the thin membrane known as the mesothelium and can result in diseases like mesothelioma. If a vessel is damaged in combat or by collision, compartments containing asbestos may be damaged, releasing extremely hazardous asbestos dust. This would expose both shipboard and repair yard personnel to asbestos.Sources
Haze Gray & Underway. Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships. DD-554.
NavSource Naval History, USS Franks (DD-554).
Tin Can Sailors. William Joseph Franks.