The USS Shields (DD-596) served in the U.S. Navy for nearly three decades during the mid-20th century. She was named for Purser Thomas Shields who served in the Battle of New Orleans. Shields was commissioned as a Fletcher-class naval vessel.
Shields was laid down by the Puget Sound Navy Yard in August 1943, launched in September 1944, and commissioned in February 1945 with Commander George B. Madden in command. Supporting a crew complement of 273, Shields was armed with ten 21-inch torpedo tubes, five 5-inch anti-aircraft guns, four 1.1-inch anti-aircraft guns, and four 20-millimeter anti-aircraft guns.
Shields was assigned to escort duty with Iowa in March and April 1945, and commenced operations at Pearl Harbor in May. The destroyer moved on to Eniwetok Atoll with convoy PD-413-T and participated in combat operations from May through mid-August 1945. Conducting mostly escort and patrol duties, Shields served at Eniwetok, Ulithi, Leyte, Okinawa, and Borneo. In support of Australian ground troops in June, Shields fired on Japanese shore installations at Miri, Borneo; her only combat action of World War II.
Shields was stationed at Okinawa in August 1945 when word came that hostilities had ended. Following a regional cruise, Shields rendezvoused with Task Group 78.1 and served as an escort for vessels transporting occupation troops to Korea. She then operated along the northern coast of China, stopping at major ports on the Gulf of Po Hai such as Chefoo, Chinwangto, and Port Arthur. Shields returned to the United States after serving additional escort duty in the Far East, and was placed in reserve in June 1946.
Shields was re-commissioned in July 1950 and began the first of three tours during the Korean War in September 1951. The destroyer conducted patrol and fire support duties until returning home in February 1952, and returned to the region from November 1952 until June 1953, and then from February 1954 to July during which she served in the Philippines and patrolled Indochina.
Shields alternated between routine activities on the west coast and seven western Pacific deployments between July 1954 and November 1963. The destroyer was ultimately assigned to naval reserve training with the Development and Training Command until being decommissioned in July 1972. Shields was then sold to the Brazilian Navy, renamed Maranhao, and broken up for scrap in July 1990.
Asbestos Risk on the USS Shields (DD-596)
Because asbestos is essentially fireproof, it became the primary means of fireproofing seafaring vessels beginning in the 1930s. Naval vessels use many pieces of equipment that generate high amounts of thermal energy, such as turbines and pumps. The Navy saw that asbestos could be used in a variety of ways throughout its fleet, particularly as thermal insulation, and continued to use it up to the 1970s.
Sailors on Shields that were primarily employed in repair or maintenance duties generally had the most severe asbestos exposure. The risk was also greater for sailors working in engineering sections and boiler rooms. No member of the crew was completely safe from exposure, as the mineral was also used wrap the vessel's steam pipes and to pack pumps and valves.
Asbestos material causes mesothelioma by destroying a thin membrane called the mesothelium when it is breathed in. Because exposure to asbestos is the only known cause this cancer, there are usually legal options for Navy veterans suffering from mesothelioma.Sources
Haze Gray & Underway. Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships. DD-596.
http://www.hazegray.org/danfs/destroy/dd596txt.htm) Retrieved 26 January 2011.
NavSource Naval History. USS Shields (DD-596).
http://www.navsource.org/archives/05/596.htm) Retrieved 26 January 2011.