The USS Stephen Potter (DD-538) served in the U.S. Navy for nearly three decades in the mid-20th century. She was named for Ensign Stephen Potter who served in World War I. Stephen Potter was designed and commissioned as a Fletcher-class vessel.
Stephen Potter was laid down at San Francisco, California by the Bethlehem Steel Corporation in October 1942, launched in April 1943, and commissioned in October with Commander C.H. Crichton in command. With a crew compliment of 273 and length of 376 feet, five inches, Stephen Potter 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.
Stephen Potter sailed to Hawaii in December 1943 and then was deployed to the Marshall Islands with Task Force 58 in January. She served as a defense for aircraft carriers as they made strikes on Truk, returned to Pearl Harbor in March, and resumed service during assaults on Hollandia, New Guinea in April. During a bombing of Truk, Stephen Potter joined an attack on Japanese submarine I-174 along with MacDonough, and then participated in bombardments of Ponape Island, Marcus Island, and Wake Island.
Following strikes on Saipan, Stephen Potter served in the Battle of the Philippine Sea in June, and then supported troops during the offensive at Guam in July and August. Stephen Potter served as a carrier screen during attacks on Luzon, Leyte, Anguar, and Manila Bay. In October, the destroyer served screening duty during strikes against Okinawa, where 83 survivors of Houston were taken onboard.
By January 1945, Stephen Potter was in the South China Sea and served with carriers during assaults on Saigon and Camranh Bay, Indochina. She also served during strikes against Hong Kong and Tokyo in February, and supported troop landings at Iwo Jima. Following air raids against Kyushu, Stephen Potter rescued 107 crew members of Bunker Hill in May.
Stephen Potter was placed with the Pacific Reserve Fleet after the war ended and was out of commission from September 1945 to March 1951. In April 1953, she was assigned to duty off Korea, and returned to the United States for overhaul at Boston in March 1954. Stephen Potter was decommissioned in June 1958, struck from the Navy list in December 1972, and sold for scrap in November 1973.
Asbestos Risk on the USS Stephen Potter (DD-538)
Engineering and power areas on Stephen Potter installed large amounts of asbestos to insulate pipes, to protect boilers, and to protect parts of the ship's turbines. Most other compartments also contained asbestos, as the mineral was both inexpensive to procure and highly effective as an insulator and fireproofing agent. No area on this ship could safely be called asbestos free.
Sailors serving as engineers, boilermen, machinists, and firefighters endured the highest exposure. Such duties required regular exposure to the highest quantities of friable asbestos. Fibers released from friable asbestos were easily inhaled, where they could lodge in the lungs and surrounding tissues. Asbestos fibers can cause scarring, tissue damage, and mesothelioma. No matter what his assigned duties were, a Navy veteran diagnosed with an asbestos-related disease is likely entitled to some compensation for his injury.Sources
Haze Gray & Underway. Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships. DD-538.
http://www.hazegray.org/danfs/destroy/dd538txt.htm) Retrieved 19 January 2011.
NavSource Naval History, USS Stephen Potter (DD-538).
http://www.navsource.org/archives/05/538.htm) Retrieved 19 January 2011.