The USS Picking (DD-685) was commissioned by the U.S. Navy for more than two and a half decades in the mid-20th century. She was named for Sherwood Picking who was noted for his service as a submarine commander in World War I. Picking was designed as a Fletcher-class ship.
Picking was laid down at Staten Island, New York by the Bethlehem Steel Corporation in November 1942, launched in June 1943, and commissioned in September with Commander Raymond S. Lamb in command. Measuring 376 feet, five inches, Picking included an armament of ten 21-inch torpedo tubes, five 5-inch anti-aircraft guns, four 20-millimeter anti-aircraft guns, and four 1.1 inch anti-aircraft guns.
Picking joined the North Pacific Fleet, Destroyer Squadron 49 in December 1943 and serve bombardment duty in the Kuriles in February and June 1944. The destroyer then joined the 3rd Fleet in August at Pearl Harbor, and escorted troop transports to Manus Island in October. Re-assigned to the 7th Fleet, Picking protected fleet operations for the Leyte invasion as well as at the Battle off Samar Island. She served as an escort for Mount Olympus and Auriya during the Battle for Leyte Gulf.
Picking commenced anti-aircraft protection during the invasion of Lingayen in January 1945, and aided in the assault on Kerama Retto in March. She was assigned to fire support at Okinawa in April, where she rescued survivors of Longshaw, and served radar picket duty through much of June. Picking sailed for San Francisco when World War II ended and was decommissioned at San Diego Naval Shipyard in December 1945.
Picking resumed service in January 1951 and departed Newport, Rhode Island in May 1953 to provide shore bombardment off Korea. Following a stretch of European and Mediterranean duty in 1955, Picking returned to the United States and joined the Pacific Fleet in April 1956. The destroyer then alternated between routine operations on the west coast and deployments to the Far East, including for anti-submarine duty in 1959, and escort and bombardment duty off in the 1960s.
Picking also served during the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962. Following her final voyage to Vietnam in 1968, Picking sailed to Long Beach, California and was decommissioned in September 1969. The destroyer was struck from the Navy list in March 1975 and sunk during a training exercise in February 1997.
Asbestos Risk on the USS Picking (DD-685)
Because asbestos was used in so many applications, it could be found in nearly every corridor and compartment on naval vessels. Some areas deployed asbestos-containing material more widely than did others. While asbestos insulation was concentrated in the engineering compartments, there was no real way to avoid it on Picking.
Nearly every veteran of this vessel was exposed to asbestos materials. Those serving in the engine room or performing damage control or repair duties had the greatest total exposure. It is believed that sustained exposure is the most hazardous, but no level of exposure is safe. Many Navy veterans of World War II have developed asbestos-related diseases like mesothelioma, regardless of their assigned duties. The legal system offers recourse for veterans and civilian workers injured by asbestos.Sources
Haze Gray & Underway. Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships. DD-685.
NavSource Naval History. USS Picking (DD-685).