The USS Gwin (DD-433) served in the U.S. Navy briefly in the mid-20th century before being sunk by Japanese warships. She was named for Lieutenant Commander William Gwin who served in the Civil War. Gwin was laid down as a Gleaves-class vessel.
Gwin was laid down by the Boston Navy Yard in June 1940, launched in May, and commissioned in January 1941 with Lieutenant Commander J.M. Higgins in command. Carrying a crew of 208, Gwin was armed with four five-inch anti-aircraft guns, six one-half inch machine guns, and ten 21-inch torpedo tubes. The destroyer was 348 feet, four inches long and had a range of 6,500 nautical miles.
Gwin was initially assigned to neutrality patrol in the Caribbean, and was re-assigned to patrol duty out of Iceland. Following the Japanese raid on Pearl Harbor, Gwin sailed to San Francisco, California and departed as an escort for the aircraft carrier Hornet in April 1942. Gwin then sailed with the task force to aid Yorktown and Lexington in the Battle of the Coral Sea, which ended prior to her arrival, and sailed for Midway out of Pearl Harbor in May.
Gwin arrived on scene after the Midway battle ended, but embarked a salvage party to help save Yorktown. She was unsuccessful and concentrated on rescuing survivors at sea. In July 1942, after returning the survivors to Pearl Harbor, Gwin was deployed to the Solomon Islands and operated as a carrier screen, convoy escort, and patrol vessel. Gwin intercepted an enemy force with other battleships in November 1942, and participated in a gun duel which resulted in damage to her engine room and fantail. Several ships were sunk, but the battle won the United States a victory in the Solomon Islands.
Gwin was overhauled at Mare Island Navy Yard in December 1942, and then returned to the Solomon Islands to escort troop and supply ships. She also supported troop landings at Rendova Island, where she was struck by enemy fire again, but Gwin succeeded in silencing several shore batteries and shooting down enemy planes. During the Battle of Kolombangara, Gwin was irreparably damaged by Japanese warships, resulting in the loss of 71 crew members. Gwin was later sunk by a torpedo from Ralph Talbot.
Asbestos Risk on the USS Gwin (DD-433)
Because materials made with asbestos were found all over the ship, all sailors serving aboard Gwin ran the risk of exposure during the course of their career. Similar exposure risks were present at dry dock. Researchers have established a strong correlation between inhaling individual asbestos fibers and the development of malignant mesothelioma.
The heavy combat damage sustained by Gwin increased the risk to her crew. When a product containing asbestos is damaged, the material can become friable. Such products release tiny, individual fibers into the surrounding air when they are disturbed. As the true dangers of asbestos exposure were not yet known while Gwin sailed, her crew was not adequately equipped to handle friable asbestos. The law often allows for compensation to be paid to Navy veterans injured by asbestos.Sources
Haze Gray & Underway. Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships. DD-433. (http://www.hazegray.org/danfs/destroy/dd433txt.htm) Retrieved 13 January 2011.
NavSource Naval History, USS Gwin (DD-433)
(http://www.navsource.org/archives/05/433.htm) Retrieved 13 January 2011.