The USS Hazelwood (DD-531) served in the U.S. Navy for over three decades in the mid-20th century. She was named for Commodore John Hazelwood who commanded the Pennsylvania and Continental navies during the Revolutionary War. Hazelwood was a member of the Fletcher class of destroyers.
Hazelwood was laid down at San Francisco, California by the Bethlehem Steel Corporation in April 1942, launched in October, and commissioned in June 1943 with Commander Hunter Wood, Jr., in command. Carrying a crew of 273, Hazelwood had a displacement of 2,924 tons and 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.
Hazelwood sailed for Pearl Harbor from the west coast in September 1943, and was deployed with an aircraft carrier strike force to the Gilbert Islands and then Wake Island in October. She returned to the Gilbert Islands in November as an anti-submarine patrol and standby fighter-director vessel. In December, Hazelwood returned to Pearl Harbor to prepare for operations in the Marshall Islands where she served as primary fighter-director ship in January and February.
Hazelwood spent several months conducting patrol and escort operations throughout the Solomon Islands as well as the Marshall Islands. In September, Hazelwood was deployed to Peleliu, Palau Islands, where the destroyer bombarded enemy positions onshore and then patrolled in the area until October.
In October, Hazelwood moved on to the Philippines and participated in the Battle of Leyte Gulf, and then commenced patrols off Leyte. Hazelwood then served with carrier forces during raids of the Ryukyu Islands, Formosa, and Okinawa in January 1945, and then moved on to Iwo Jima in February. During the invasion of Okinawa in April, Hazelwood served as an escort and radar picket, while enduring attacks by kamikaze planes. She fired on one, but the aircraft exploded on the ship and killed 67 crew members.
Hazelwood was repaired at Mare Island Navy Yard and put on reserve in January 1946. In September 1951, she was reactivated, operated off the east coast in 1952, and then was assigned to patrols off Korea in 1954. Hazelwood patrolled the eastern Mediterranean during the Suez crisis in 1956, and participated in naval testing operations on the east coast in 1958. The destroyer was deployed for patrols off Cuba in 1962, and was decommissioned in March 1965. Hazelwood was struck from the Navy list in December 1974 and sold for scrap in April 1976.
Asbestos Risk on the USS Hazelwood (DD-531)
Irrespective of where a sailor worked on a ship, service on a Navy vessel meant certain exposure to asbestos to one degree or another. Breathing or swallowing of asbestos is strongly linked to the development of an asbestos cancer called mesothelioma. Damage sustained in an enemy attack could result in some asbestos containing material entering the air. Those working around it, if not wearing protective gear, were very prone to breathing in the tiny fibers. Workers performing ship repairs or refits in shipyards were also likely to experience some level of asbestos exposure.
If a crewman was assigned to engineering or mechanical duties, the level of asbestos exposure was potentially higher than average. The engine and power plant rooms on Hazelwood used asbestos-containing materials in large quantities as insulation for pipes, to line steam boilers, and to cover parts of the ship's engines or power generating equipment. Working with this equipment would often result in asbestos entering the air where it could be breathed in, thus creating the risk for developing mesothelioma later in life.Sources
Haze Gray & Underway. Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships. DD-531.
(http://www.hazegray.org/danfs/destroy/dd531txt.htm) Retrieved 19 January 2011.
NavSource Naval History, USS Hazelwood (DD-531).
(http://www.navsource.org/archives/05/531.htm) Retrieved 19 January 2011.