The USS Stoddard (DD-566) was commissioned by the U.S. Navy for two and a half decades in the mid-20th century, but remained in service until 1997. She was named for Acting Master’s Mate James Stoddard who served in the Civil War. Stoddard was commissioned as a member of the Fletcher class of naval destroyers.
Stoddard was laid down at Seattle, Washington by the Seattle-Tacoma Shipbuilding Corporation in March 1943, launched in November, and commissioned in April 1944 with Commander Horace Meyers in command. Carrying a crew of 273, Stoddard was 376 feet, five inches long and 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.
Stoddard escorted a convoy from Seattle, Washington to Pearl Harbor in July 1944, and then sailed to Alaska in August to engage enemy positions at Japanese outposts near the Aleutian Islands. Delayed by poor weather, the mission was carried out in late November, and Stoddard continued on with the task force to Kuril and Paramushiro. Stoddard then participated in the bombardment of Kuabu Zaki and additional operations off the Aleutians.
Stoddard served as a screen for Ticonderoga en-route to Ulithi and engaged Japanese forces at Maloelap Atoll, and then left for Okinawa in late May. During her deployment at Okinawa, Stoddard served as a radar picket station and helped cargo ships depart the area in June to avoid both kamikaze planes and a typhoon. Stoddard escorted Mississippi to the Leyte Gulf, Philippines later in the month, participated in bombardments of Chi Chi Jima in July, and protected occupation forces following the end of hostilities.
Stoddard was decommissioned at Charleston, South Carolina from January 1947 until November 1950, when she was reactivated. She alternated between deployments to the Mediterranean and service off the east coast until January 1955. Deployed with the Pacific Fleet, Stoddard helped evacuate Chinese Nationalists from the Tachen Islands, and patrolled the Taiwan Strait. She returned to the area during the Vietnam War in June 1965 and upon return to San Diego in November, operated off the west coast of the United States until being deployed for another three tours of Vietnam.
Stoddard continued duty in the west Pacific and the west coast until being decommissioned in September 1969. She was the final Fletcher-class destroyer to be struck from the Navy list in June 1975, remained in service as a test ship until 1992, and was sunk off Hawaii in July 1997.
Asbestos Risk on the USS Stoddard (DD-566)
Nearly every compartment of Stoddard could expose crewmen to materials containing asbestos fibers. Asbestos was installed as an insulating material for boiler plants, generators, engines, and turbines. Asbestos pipe insulation was used around steam ducts running throughout the vessel. Pumps and valves employed on Stoddard often used asbestos packing. Welders, boiler repairmen, and even painters were known to have high levels of exposure.
Asbestos causes malignant mesothelioma by destroying the mesothelium, a thin layer of tissue that buffers many internal organs. Navy veterans are amongst those most likely to develop this cancer. Because exposure to asbestos is the only known cause of mesothelioma, and the presence of asbestos on board Navy ships is well established, there are often legal options for sailors with asbestos-related illnesses.Sources
Haze Gray & Underway. Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships. DD-566.
http://www.hazegray.org/danfs/destroy/dd566txt.htm) Retrieved 21 January 2011.
NavSource Naval History. USS Stoddard (DD-566).
http://www.navsource.org/archives/05/566.htm) Retrieved 21 January 2011.