The USS Little (DD-79) was a Wickes-class destroyer named after a distinguished captain who began his career during the American Revolution, George Little. This was the first ship named in his honor.
Little was built by Bethlehem Steel’s Fore River Shipbuilding Company at Quincy, Massachusetts, and was completed in April, 1918. Although considered Wickes-class destroyers, Little and other ships built at Fore River and the Union Iron Works varied slightly from other members of the class and are sometimes categorized as Little-class to distinguish them. One characteristic of Little-class vessels was that they tended to fall short of their designed cruising range.
Little left Norfolk under Commander Joseph K. Taussig in May 1918. She served as a convoy escort off of Brest, France, for the remainder of World War I, notably escorting President Wilson to the Paris Peace Conference and back to New York City. After the war, she patrolled off of the Atlantic coast until she was decommissioned in 1922.
After being modified to serve as a high speed troop transport, having two boilers removed to make more room for troops, she reentered service in August 1940. Her ship number was changed from DD-79 to APD-4, and she was recommissioned in November 1940.
Little was designated the flagship for TransDiv12 and reassigned to San Diego as her home port. In 1942 she sailed to Pearl Harbor, Midway and the Solomons. The Little and other high speed transports were crucial in bringing badly needed supplies to US troops in the South Pacific after the Battle of Savo Island.
It was while the Little was returning troops to Guadalcanal from Savo Island on September 5, 1942, that she met her end. She and two other APDs were sailing off Lunga Point, Guadalcanal, when lookouts spotted gun flashes. A Navy Catalina flying overhead believed that they came from a Japanese submarine, and attempted to illuminate the sub with flares. The flares illuminated the APDs instead, and the three aging American ships were shelled by three Japanese destroyers. The American ships sustained direct hits and Little and her sister ship, Gregory, both sank.
Asbestos Risk on the USS Little (DD-79)
The USS Little used asbestos products for insulation and fire resistance throughout the ship, with particularly high concentrations in and around the engines and boilers. As the ship was constructed and operated before the dangers of asbestos were fully known, sailors on the Little would often work in asbestos contaminated areas without adequate protection. Inhaling or ingesting asbestos products can cause a number of serious health complications, including a deadly cancer called mesothelioma.
Sailors and servicemen that were exposed to and injured by asbestos while serving on the USS Little have legal rights. If you or a family member was so affected, a knowledgeable mesothelioma lawyer can help you seek compensation for your injury. Complete the form on this page for more information about mesothelioma, treatment of the disease, and your legal options. We'll rush you a comprehensive information packet at no cost to you.Sources
Wickes and Clemson-class Flush Deck Destroyers
http://www.destroyerhistory.org/flushdeck/wickesclass.html Retrieved 16 December 2010
USN Ships—USS Little (Destroyer #79, Later DD-79 and APD-4)
http://www.history.navy.mil/photos/sh-usn/usnsh-l/dd79.htm Retrieved 16 December 2010
USS Little – (APD-4, ex DD-79), converted Wickes-class Flush Deck Destroyer
http://www.destroyerhistory.org/flushdeck/usslittle.html Retrieved 16 December 2010