USS Lang (DD-399) was a Benham-class destroyer constructed for the U.S. Navy during World War II. She was the first of two naval vessels to be named in honor of John Lang, who was a sailor in the U.S. Navy.
Lang was laid down on April 5, 1937 by the Federal Shipbuilding & Dry Dock Company in Kearny, New Jersey. Launched on August 27, 1938, she was sponsored by Mrs. William D. Leahy, who was the namesake’s wife. Lieutenant Commander Felix L. Johnson took command of Lang on March 30, 1939.
Following shakedown, Lang provided guard for President Franklin D. Roosevelt as he sailed to Campobello, Newfoundland and Nova Scotia. Three months later, she sailed to Galveston, Texas, where she took on Gulf Patrol duty. Lang then spent the next several months participating in fleet problems and training exercises in Pearl Harbor before returning to the Caribbean and Atlantic in June 1941.
Following the attacks on Pearl Harbor, Lang sailed to Port Royal, Nova Scotia. Here she patrolled with ships of the Royal Navy before sailing to the British West Indies. While making the trip, Lang answered a distress call from SS Empire Wildebeest. Lang was able to rescue 34 survivors from the torpedoed vessel.
Over the next several months, Lang assisted with delivering supplies to the island of Malta. In July, she screened Wasp as the carrier supported the first American land offensive of the Pacific war. In January 1942, Lang bombarded Japanese positions in an area near Kokumbona before escorting six APDs to Kula Gulf along with four other destroyers. Lang was credited with downing one enemy aircraft while returning to Purvis Bay, Florida while escorting five LCIs.
On August 6 and 7, Lang and her group sank three Japanese destroyers as part of a mission in Vella Gulf. Two nights later, she drove off tree groups of enemy troop barges while conducting a sweep of the area. Lang then engaged in three months of escort duty before assisting with the invasion of Gilberts on November 23 through the 30th.
In late August 1943, Lang sailed to Wewak, New Guinea to lay a minefield. On October 10, Lang left Hollandia en route to assist with the Leyte Gulf operation. Despite being attacked by six kamikazes, she escaped unharmed while also managing to take down one enemy plane. Lang was attacked by kamikazes once more on Christmas Day as she sailed for the Lingayen Gulf landings. Once again, Lang downed a plane before returning to Leyte Gulf on January 16, 1945.
While screening the transports of TF 53 to Okinawa in mid-April, Lang once again came under attack by enemy aircraft. She once again managed to take down one kamikaze without incurring any damage herself. While en route to New York from San Francisco on August 25, Lang rescued two downed pilots.
Lang was decommissioned on October 16, 1945. She was sold to George Nutman, Inc. in Brooklyn, New York on December 20 and was scrapped on October 31, 1947. Lang received 11 battle stars for her service during World War II.
Asbestos Risk on the USS Lang (DD-399)
Naval ships like Lang utilized ACMs (asbestos-containing materials) as insulation for their boilers and heavy equipment. Over time researchers realized that asbestos-containing material was extremely dangerous, and its use was restricted in the late 1970s. Modern medicine has demonstrated a strong relationship between inhaling individual asbestos fibers and the emergence of mesothelioma.
Some jobs suffered from a larger risk of exposure, and crewmen stationed in Lang’s engine room, working on heavy machinery, as firefighters, or conducting repairs were considerably more likely to inhale or ingest asbestos-containing materials. This is because damaged and worn ACMs become friable, releasing tiny individual asbestos fibers into the air. The level and duration of exposure to such fibers is known to affect the chance to develop asbestos cancer.Sources
Lang. Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships. Department of the Navy – Naval Historical Center.