USS Hughes (DD-410) was a Sims-class destroyer for the U.S. Navy during World War II. She was named in honor of Commander Edward Merritte Hughes, who was an officer in the U.S. Navy during the Spanish-American War.
Hughes was laid down by Bath Iron Works in Bath, Maine on September 15, 1937. Launched on June 17, 1939, she was sponsored by Mrs. Edward M. Hughes, who was the namesake’s widow. Lieutenant Commander Donald J. Ramsey took command of Hughes on September 21, 1939.
Following a shakedown cruise, Hughes joined the Atlantic fleet. After serving in the Atlantic, she participated in neutrality patrols off Iceland. While serving in this capacity, Hughes became the first American destroyer to escort a British convoy to England.
After the attacks on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, Hughes was called to duty in the Pacific. After serving as a screen at the strikes on Jaluit, Makin, Mili and Canton Islands and then providing support in the attack on Japanese bases at Salamaua and Lae, Hughes returned to Pearl Harbor in order to prepare for the Battle of Midway.
At the Battle of Midway, Hughes provided protection to Yorktown as she shot down two torpedo planes and assisted with shooting down two others. Hughes then conducted an all night vigil on Yorktown to prevent her capture after she had been hit by two torpedoes. Two days later, Yorktown was hit by another torpedo. Hughes damaged the attacker with depth charges before rescuing Yorktown’s survivors when it sunk the following day.
In October 1942, Hughes participated in the Battle of Santa Cruz. Here, she took down one enemy plane and assisted with taking down two more while screening Hornet. Despite her efforts, Hornet was sunk on October 27. The following month, Hughes participated in the Naval Battle of Guadalcanal, where she provided screen for Enterprise. After undergoing refitting and repair, Hughes participated in the invasion of the Gilbert Islands on October 26, 1943 as well as the invasion of Makin Atoll on November 10. On November 24, Hughes rescued 152 survivors from Liscome Bay after she had been sunk.
On April 23, 1944, Hughes participated in the invasion of Hollandia, New Guinea. She remained in the area until September 25, at which time she departed in order to participate in the invasion of the Philippines. Hughes went on to assist with the invasions of Biak, Cape Sensapor, Noemfoor and Morotai.
On December 10, 1944, Hughes was hit by a kamikaze shortly after the invasion of Ormoc Bay. The attack left her engine room and other machinery badly damaged. Hughes then returned to Pearl Harbor, where she remained for three months as she underwent repairs. After serving for a brief period of time in the Aleutians and off Northern Honshu, she returned to the United States in October 1945. Hughes was decommissioned on August 28, 1946, after which she was used as a target ship as part of the Operation Crossroads atomic bomb testing. Hughes was towed to sea on October 16, 1948, at which time she was sunk off Kwajalein. She was struck from the Navy list on November 26, 1948. Hughes earned 14 battle stars for her service during World War II.
Asbestos Risk on the USS Hughes (DD-410)
Like most Naval ships of its time, the Hughes was fireproofed and insulated with asbestos products. Boilers, pipes, turbines, and more all contained or were covered with asbestos containing parts. It was later discovered that exposure to asbestos fibers is linked to a number of serious health problems, including mesothelioma cancer.
Working with or near battle-damaged asbestos products was particularly dangerous. Hughes participated in many WWII battles, and suffered heavy damage during her service. Sailors performing damage control or firefighting duties often had the highest exposure and greatest risk.Sources
Hughes. Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships. Department of the Navy – Naval Historical Center.