The USS Owen (DD-536) served in the U.S. Navy for three decades in the mid-20th century. She was named for Elias K. Owen who served in the Civil War. Owen was laid down as a Fletcher-class vessel.
Owen was laid down at San Francisco, California by the Bethlehem Steel Corporation in September 1942, launched in March 1943, and commissioned in September with Commander R.W. Wood in command. Carrying a crew of 273 and measuring 376 feet, five inches long, Owen was armed with five 5-inch anti-aircraft guns, four 1.1-inch anti-aircraft guns, four 20-millimeter anti-aircraft guns, and ten 21-inch torpedo tubes.
Owen began her wartime service during operation Flintlock in the Marshall Islands, with aircraft carrier Task Force 58. In January 1944, the destroyer operated as a screen off Kwajelein for carriers, and also served with a force of battleships and cruisers during strikes on Palau, Yap, Ulithi, and Wolesi in March and April. Owen was deployed to New Guinea next, supported assaults on Hollandia, Wakde, and Sarmi in April, and then served off Marcus and Wake Islands in May.
Owen operated in the Mariana Islands in June to support the assault on Saipan and then went on with the carrier force to Rota and Guam. She later served with forces to engage the Japanese in the Battle of the Philippine Sea. Owen participated in key strikes at Iwo Jima in July and at Leyte and Samar during the Palau campaign in September, while boiler problems were resolved in time for Owen to join the invasion of Leyte.
Owen continued operations in the Philippines until November, and returned in December in support of amphibious landings in Lingayen Gulf. She screened Task Group 58.2 in the Okinawa combat zone in April and May, and sailed to San Francisco in July, and remained there until the end of the war.
Owen was out of commission at San Diego Naval Shipyard from December 1946 to August 1951, and then became the flagship of destroyer Division 282. Owen was initially deployed with the Atlantic Fleet in November 1951, but in February 1953, was assigned to the 7th Fleet for service in the Korean War. She returned to the United States in August, was deployed to the Mediterranean in January 1954, and rejoined the Pacific Fleet in January 1965. Decommissioned and put on reserve in May 1958, Owen was sold for scrap in November 1973.
Asbestos Risk on the USS Owen (DD-536)
Builders and manufacturers started utilizing asbestos fibers in the 1800s because it was highly convenient for industrial and construction applications. New regulations regarding fire safety were passed in the 1930s, calling for better fireproofing aboard naval vessels. Boilers and turbines make intense heat, and for many years these pieces of equipment used asbestos-bearing material as a fire-retardant insulation.
Nearly every crewman aboard Owen was regularly exposed to asbestos products. No area of the ship was completely free of the mineral. The abundance of asbestos materials used in the naval ships of this era has made service in the U.S. Navy a risk factor for developing mesothelioma. This known source of exposure for Navy veterans means that most sailors with asbestos-related diseases can pursue compensation for their injury.Sources
Haze Gray & Underway. Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships. DD-536.
NavSource Naval History, USS Owen (DD-536).
Tin Can Sailors. Elias K. Owen.