The USS Irwin (DD-794) remained on the Navy list for nearly three decades in the mid-20th century. She was named for Rear Admiral Noble Edward Irwin who served during the Spanish-American War, as Director of Naval Aviation during World War I, and as Commandant of the 15th Naval District. Irwin was a member of the Fletcher class of naval destroyers.
Irwin was laid down at San Pedro, California by the Bethlehem Steel Corporation in May 1943, launched in October, and commissioned in February 1944 with Commander Daniel B. Miller in command. Carrying a crew of 273, Irwin had a displacement of 2,924 tons and was armed with ten 21-inch torpedo tubes, five 5-inch anti-aircraft guns, four 1.1-inch anti-aircraft guns, and four 20-millimeter anti-aircraft guns.
Irwin left the west coast for Hawaii in April 1944, participated in the invasion of Saipan in June, and then protected aircraft carriers during the invasion of Tinian in July. The destroyer conducted bombardments during the assault on Guam, and then screened carriers at the Palau Islands. While supporting the troop landings at Leyte in October, Irwin rescued 646 naval officers of carrier Princeton, which was struck by Japanese bombers.
Irwin brought the Princeton survivors to Ulithi and then was overhauled at the San Francisco Navy Yard from November 1944 to late-January 1945. In February, Irwin returned to the war zone to support aircraft carriers for the invasion of Iwo Jima, and then conducted bombardments prior to and during the Okinawa invasion. She also rescued survivors of Twiggs, which was sunk by kamikaze, aerial, and torpedo strikes. Irwin served off Okinawa until mid-August 1945, and then conducted escort missions during the occupation, before returning to San Diego in November.
Irwin was decommissioned with the Pacific Reserve Fleet from May 1946 until February 1951. Overhauled at the Philadelphia Navy Yard, Irwin was then based out of Newport, Rhode Island in December 1952 and served along the east coast and with the 6th Fleet in the Mediterranean. Irwin was deployed during the Korean War in 1953 and resumed duty in the Atlantic in 1955. In March 1956, Irwin sailed for California and, after a couple of deployments to the Far East, was decommissioned in January 1958. Struck from the Navy list in March 1973, Irwin was transferred to Brazil in 1968, renamed Santa Catarina, and broken up for scrap in 1978.
Asbestos Risk on the USS Irwin (DD-794)
Because asbestos materials were almost ubiquitous on craft of this era, nearly everyone on board Irwin suffered exposure at some point during their career. Crewmen employed in engineering, repair and maintenance work had the most severe exposure. Inhaling airborne asbestos fibers has been shown to lead to mesothelioma and other diseases.
Dock and shipyard servicemen were also at risk of being heavily exposed. Ship repairs were very likely to disturb existing asbestos products, which can increase the quantity of airborne fibers. Even the families of dockworkers were exposed, as asbestos easily clung to worker’s clothes. Most people suffering from asbestos-related diseases can pursue compensation through legal action. The law limits the time you have to file, so contact a mesothelioma attorney as soon as you can.Sources
Haze Gray & Underway. Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships. DD-794.
(http://www.hazegray.org/danfs/destroy/dd794txt.htm) Retrieved 17 February 2011.
NavSource Naval History. Irwin (DD-794).
(http://www.navsource.org/archives/05/794.htm) Retrieved 17 February 2011.