The USS Metcalf (DD-595) served in the U.S. Navy during the mid-1940s and remained on the Navy list until the early 1970s. She was named for boatswain’s mate James Metcalf who served on board Enterprise for the expedition to Tripoli harbor in 1804. Metcalf was a member of the Fletcher class of naval destroyers.
Metcalf was laid down by the Puget Sound Navy Yard in August 1943, launched in September 1944, and commissioned in November with Commander David L. Martineau in command. 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, Metcalf had a crew capacity of 273. She had a displacement of 2,924 tons and a range of 6,500 nautical miles at 15 knots.
Metcalf was deployed to serve with the Pacific Fleet in February 1945 immediately after her training in San Diego, California. The destroyer sailed to Pearl Harbor from Bremerton Naval Shipyard in Washington, and arrived at Ulithi in mid-March. Metcalf joined the vessels that were preparing for the Okinawa invasion, and began operating with Escort Carrier Group 3. Beginning in late March, Metcalf and her group supported troop landings at Kerama Retto, and Okinawa in April, as well as helping to raid nearby islands that were being occupied by the Japanese. During this deployment, Metcalf conducted radar picket and vessel screening duties, and also rescued pilots and crews of carrier planes that went down.
In May and June 1945, Metcalf escorted convoys prior to the Borneo invasion, and then conducted shore bombardment to support Australian troops at Brunei Bay and Balikpapan. Metcalf served as a convoy escort from the Philippines to Okinawa in August, aided in the landing of occupation troops at Korea in September, and shortly thereafter helped a group of vessels avoid the many mines laid in the Yellow Sea.
Metcalf served at various ports, such as Darien, Chefoo, Shanghai, and Hong Kong before returning to the United States in early 1946. She was placed with the Reserve Fleet at San Diego in March, struck from the Navy list in January 1971, and sold for scrap in June 1972. Metcalf was honored with three battle stars for her service in the Second World War.
Asbestos Risk on the USS Metcalf (DD-595)
Because asbestos could be used in so many products, asbestos fibers could be found nearly everywhere aboard Metcalf. Some areas of the ship used asbestos more widely than others. Any area of a vessel that contained heavy equipment also had asbestos fibers for purposes of fireproofing and insulation.
A sailor’s probability to develop an asbestos disease increased with regular exposure to the mineral. Damage sustained during battle further increased the risk. Metcalf’s activity in World War II likely resulted in damage to the asbestos installed on board. Such damage often left clouds of dangerous asbestos dust behind. Inhaling asbestos fibers on ships is known to have caused mesothelioma in Navy veterans.Sources
Haze Gray & Underway. Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships. DD-595.
NavSource Naval History. USS Metcalf (DD-595).