The USS Killen (DD-593) was commissioned by the U.S. Navy during the Second World War and remained on the Navy list until the early 1960s. She was named for Master’s Mate Edward Killen who served during the expedition by Stephen Decatur into Tripoli Harbor. Killen was a member of the Fletcher class of destroyers.
Killen was laid down by the Puget Sound Navy Yard in November 1941, launched in January 1943, and commissioned in May 1944 with Commander H.G. Corey in command. Carrying a crew of 273, Killen was armed with five 5-inch anti-aircraft guns, ten 21-inch torpedo tubes, four 1.1-inch anti-aircraft guns, and four 20-millimeter anti-aircraft guns. She was driven by Allis Chalmers turbines and had a cruising speed of 38 knots.
Killen began her overseas service as a convoy escort from Pearl Harbor to the Admiralty Islands in September 1944. In October, Killen sailed from Hollandia, where she participated in training exercises, and sailed with the Central Philippine Attack Force to San Pedro Bay. Killen conducted fire support for troops at the Battle of Leyte Gulf while operating at the Surigao Strait. During this deployment, Killen also launched torpedoes at Japanese battleship Yamashiro, disabling the enemy vessel.
Killen conducted patrols and anti-aircraft operations off Leyte. In November 1944, the destroyer was attacked by seven enemy planes. One explosion killed 15 crew members. Killen underwent temporary repairs at San Pedro Bay and Manus, and then received a complete overhaul at Hunter’s Point, California in January 1945. She returned to the Philippines in May for escort and patrol duty, and then supported the invasion of Borneo in June by bombarding enemy shore positions.
Killen spent the month of August in the Aleutian Islands, but was then assigned to aid occupation forces after the war ended. The destroyer sailed for the United States in November and arrived at San Diego in April, where she was placed out of commission in July 1946. In 1958, Killen was utilized as a trial ship for atomic bomb tests, and was struck from the Navy list in June 1963. Killen was sunk while being used as a target for missiles off Puerto Rico in April 1975.
Asbestos Risk on the USS Killen (DD-593)
The industrial revolution brought about a new demand for asbestos products like insulation. Civilian and military craft such as the USS Killen required asbestos insulation for their boilers and other equipment that operated in high heat environments. The United States Navy was an early adopter of asbestos and used asbestos freely until restrictions were put into place in the late 1970s.
Because asbestos insulation was installed in so many places throughout the ships including around pipes, in mess halls and in sleeping quarters, essentially all crewmen on Killen were placed at some risk for asbestos exposure during their careers. In addition, dock workers were at risk for asbestos exposure because dockyards were in the business of the repair and refurbishment of ships and asbestos was constantly present in those locations. Breathing or swallowing asbestos fibers is known to lead to the development of mesothelioma.Sources
Haze Gray & Underway. Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships. DD-593.
(http://www.hazegray.org/danfs/destroy/dd593txt.htm) Retrieved 25 January 2011.
NavSource Naval History. USS Killen (DD-593).
(http://www.navsource.org/archives/05/593.htm) Retrieved 25 January 2011.