The USS Stockham (DD-683) was commissioned by the U.S. Navy for nearly a decade and a half in the mid-20th century, but remained on the Navy list for over three decades. She was named for Captain Fred William Stockham who served with the United States Marine Corps in World War I. Stockham was designated as a member of the Fletcher class of destroyers.
Stockham was laid down at San Francisco, California by the Bethlehem Steel Corporation in December 1942, launched in June 1943, and commissioned in February 1944 with Commander E. P. Holmes in command. Carrying a crew of 273, Stockham was 376 feet, five inches long and armed with 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.
Stockham reported for duty at Pearl Harbor in April, and was deployed to the Marshall Islands in late May 1944. In June, Stockham participated in pre-invasion bombardments at Saipan and then sailed for the Mariana Islands to take part in the Battle of the Philippine Sea, where she engaged in combat with Japanese airplanes. The destroyer then operated during the Saipan and Tinian occupations in the summer and then patrolled off Guam to defend the invasion fleet.
Stockham protected aircraft carriers and troops at Leyte Gulf in October, particularly during the Cape Engano phase. She alternated between combat in the Philippines and provisioning and upkeep at Ulithi, and served with the carriers when strikes on Japan began in January 1945. During the invasion of Okinawa in April, Stockham helped defend the fleet against kamikazes and helped escort damaged ships like Pittsburgh out of the battle zone.
Stockham served during the bombardments of Japan in July and August and operated with minesweepers while the occupation ensued. She returned to the west coast in October and was decommissioned soon after at San Diego. Stockham returned to service in 1950, based out of Newport, Rhode Island, and spent December 1953 until July 1954 circumnavigating the world. Overhauled at Boston in 1955, Stockham then operated with the Atlantic Fleet, and began a year of service in the Mediterranean starting in February 1956. The destroyer then returned to Newport and was decommissioned in September 1957, struck from the Navy list in December 1974, and sunk off Puerto Rico in February 1977.
Asbestos Risk on the USS Stockham (DD-683)
The U.S. Navy deployed asbestos extensively until around 1979 as an insulator and to fireproof compartments aboard all ships. This heavy dependence on asbestos products placed many sailors at risk for serious illnesses later in life. The link between naval service and asbestos disease is well established, and has allowed many Navy veterans with mesothelioma to collect compensation for their injury.
Stockham used asbestos in nearly every compartment. Engineering sections were the most polluted, as boilers, generators, turbines, and pumps all contained asbestos parts and insulation. The galleys on board were fireproofed with asbestos materials. Asbestos fibers were also woven into ropes and mixed into cements and adhesives. Nearly every veteran of Stockham was exposed to asbestos during his service.Sources
Haze Gray & Underway. Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships. DD-683.
http://www.hazegray.org/danfs/destroy/dd683txt.htm) Retrieved 3 February 2011.
NavSource Naval History. USS Stockham (DD-683).