The USS Haggard (DD-555) served in the U.S. Navy for a few years in the World War II era. She was named for Captain Thomas Haggard who served in the Quasi-War with France. Haggard was laid down as a Fletcher-class naval destroyer.
Haggard was laid down at Seattle, Washington by the Seattle-Tacoma Shipbuilding Corporation in March 1942, launched in February 1943, and commissioned in August with Commander D.A. Harris in command. Carrying a crew of 273, Haggard was 376 feet, five inches long and 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.
Haggard began service out of Pearl Harbor in November 1943, and participated in tactical exercises off Hawaii until beginning combat duty in the Marshall Islands. In January 1944, Haggard operated during troop landings at Majuro, and then engaged the enemy while Marines served on Kwajalein Atoll. She conducted patrols and escorted transports in the area until February, and then commenced reconnaissance patrols, convoy duties, and aircraft carrier screening with the 3rd Fleet off New Guinea and the Solomon Islands in May.
Haggard participated in bombardments at the Mariana Islands in July and, in September, joined the Western Escort Carrier Group in the Solomon Islands. During this deployment, she screened carriers for the invasion of Peleliu. Haggard also served during the naval battle off Samar, Philippines, and endured the power of the Japanese fleet while protecting the escort carriers. The destroyer remained in the Philippines for the Luzon invasion and strikes on Formosa, Indochina, and the mainland of China. Haggard served in the carrier group containing Randolph and Yorktown during strikes on Tokyo in February 1945.
Haggard operated with the 5th fleet when deployed for attacks on Japan. In March, Haggard battled kamikaze planes and rammed submarine I-371, causing the Japanese vessel to sink within minutes. Repaired at Ulithi, Haggard served in the Okinawa operation with Iowa, during which she screened carriers. Haggard was struck during this battle by a kamikaze which her crew had fired on, and the aircraft’s bomb exploded inside the destroyer. The crew kept Haggard afloat and she was towed by Walker to Kerama Retto. Haggard was decommissioned and struck from the Navy list in November, and broken up for scrap in March 1946.
Asbestos Risk on the USS Haggard (DD-555)
Asbestos was used as an insulating and fireproofing material in engineering sections, boilers, and engines. Pipes that carried steam ran to nearly every compartment in the ship and were covered in insulation made of asbestos, bringing an exposure risk to almost every area of the vessel. This risk was compounded by the practice of mixing asbestos into cements, sealants, and many other products used aboard Haggard.
Damage sustained in battle can amplify the risk from installed asbestos products. When asbestos-containing materials are torn or damaged, they can release individual asbestos fibers into the surrounding air. Such fibers are easily inhaled by unprotected sailors, and can later lead to the development of serious diseases like mesothelioma. The collision of Haggard and I-371 and the subsequent kamikaze attack on the destroyer increased the asbestos risk to her sailors.Sources
Haze Gray & Underway. Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships. DD-555
(http://www.hazegray.org/danfs/destroy/dd555txt.htm) Retrieved 20 January 2011.
NavSource Naval History, USS Haggard (DD-555)
(http://www.navsource.org/archives/05/555.htm) Retrieved 20 January 2011.