The USS Hutchins (DD-476) was named for naval aviator and posthumous Medal of Honor winner Lieutenant Carleton B. Hutchins. Hutchins’ plane collided with another in 1938 and he was mortally wounded, but his piloting skill allowed his crew to parachute to safety.
Hutchins was laid down at the Boston Navy Yard and launched on February 20, 1942. She was commissioned on November 17, 1943 under the command of Lieutenant Commander B.W. Herron. Hutchins was a Fletcher-class destroyer, possibly the most versatile and durable class of destroyers ever built. Fletchers were fast, reliable and could dish out (and absorb) punishment like none of their predecessors could. Some of the ships were still serving around the globe until the 1990s. Hutchins, like her sister ships Stanly and Pringle, had a seaplane catapult that was later removed to make room for additional guns.
Hutchins conducted patrols and escorts in the Gulf of Mexico, the Panama Canal, along the West Coast and in the South Pacific.
In her first refit, her guns were altered at Pearl Harbor in June 1943. While test firing the guns in Hawaiian waters, an electrical failure caused them to shoot into her stack, wounding twenty crewmen and killing nine. The latest Combat Information Center equipment was installed at the same time that the faulty guns were repaired. Hutchins quickly returned to service, assisting in the battle for the Aleutians and patrolling the islands after the Japanese were defeated. She steamed to New Guinea at the end of the year, where she shot down one plane and assisted with another kill while under heavy aerial attack. After colliding with another destroyer in mid-January off the coast, Hutchins sailed to Cairns, Australia for repairs.
Hutchins returned to the South Pacific and bombarded the coast of New Guinea, taking some time to patrol the Manus area with HMAS Shropshire. The ship participated in bombardment of Wewak and Hansa Bay in a successful effort to convince the Japanese that a landing would soon follow there instead of at Hollandia, farther up the coast. She raced up to Hollandia and then assisted in the initial assault before bombarding Wakde and picking up survivors of a B-24 raid south of Truk.
The next few months were busy for Hutchins. She participated in the bombardment of Wakde-Sarmi and Biak, the landings at Noemfoor and Sansapor, and harassed Japanese communications at Aitke. Hutchins served as the flagship for DesRon 24 during the Battle of Leyte Gulf and assisted in sinking a Japanese destroyer. This battle in the Philippines dealt a fatal blow to Japanese naval power in the Pacific.
Hutchins supported the landings at Saipan and Okinawa, rescuing survivors from the stricken Newcomb (DD-586), before falling victim to a Japanese suicide boat on April 27, 1945. The ship was violently rocked by the large explosive charge dropped nearby and her hull was damaged, but her crew suffered no casualties and flooding was brought under control.
She was undergoing repairs in Portland, Oregon at the end of the war and saw no further combat. Hutchins was decommissioned at Bremerton, Washington on November 30, 1945, and sold for scrap in January 1948 to Learner & Co. of Oakland, California.
Asbestos Risk on the USS Hutchins (DD-476)
The destroyers built for World War II contained asbestos in almost every compartment. The mineral was employed as insulation and fireproofing. It protected pumps, engines, turbines, and boilers from the extreme heat of near constant operation. Most sailors that served aboard Hutchins were exposed to asbestos while on board. Maritime exposure to asbestos has been linked to a significantly greater chance of developing mesothelioma cancer. There is usually legal recourse available to sailors harmed by asbestos while serving their country.Sources
Destroyer Photo Index DD-476 USS Hutchins.
Fletcher-class Destroyers in World War II.