The USS Swanson (DD-443) was commissioned and on reserve with the U.S. Navy for three decades in the mid-20th century. She was named for Claude Augustus Swanson who served as Governor of and United States Senator from Virginia, and as Secretary of the Navy under President Franklin D. Roosevelt. Swanson was built as a Gleaves-class ship.
Swanson was laid down by the Charleston Navy Yard in November 1939, launched in November 1940, and commissioned in May 1941 with Lieutenant Commander M.P. Kingsley in command. Carrying a crew of 208, Swanson was armed with four five-inch anti-aircraft guns, six one-half inch machine guns, and ten 21-inch torpedo tubes.
Swanson began her naval service conducting escort duties between New England and Bermuda and Iceland. Following the United States entry into World War II in December 1941, Swanson also escorted convoys to Scotland, Nova Scotia, and Greenland. Swanson participated in the invasion of North Africa in October 1942. German U-boats sank several vessels soon after, and Swanson participated in an attack on German submarine U-173 which was sunk.
Following the troop landings at Casablanca, Swanson was assigned to convoy duty in the Atlantic, and then participated in the invasion of Sicily in July 1943. Swanson collided with Roe the night before troop landings there, and was repaired at the Brooklyn Navy Yard before resuming service as an escort in the Atlantic. In January 1944, Swanson joined the 7th Fleet off New Guinea and served during several offensives in the area through July.
Swanson screened aircraft carriers Franklin, Enterprise, and San Jacinto in August, during air strikes on Ulithi, Okinawa, and Taiwan, and again during troop landings in the Philippines. She helped fight back Japanese forces at Leyte, and then served escort duty at Saipan and rescued downed planes, conducted anti-submarine patrols, and operated as a radar picket for the duration of 1944 into 1945. Following an overhaul at the Puget Sound Navy Yard in April, Swanson served patrol and escort duty at Iwo Jima. She was decommissioned and put in reserve in December 1945 at Charleston, South Carolina, and was sold for scrap in June 1972.
Asbestos Risk on the USS Swanson (DD-443)
Because asbestos was used in so many applications, it could be found in nearly every corridor and compartment of Swanson. Asbestos was most commonly deployed as an insulating material for boilers, power plants, and engines. It was also used as pipe insulation, to pack pumps and valves, and to fireproof the galleys.
Virtually every crewman aboard the ship suffered exposure to asbestos-containing materials, regardless of his assigned duties. Repair and yard service members were also exposed to asbestos fibers at high levels, particularly those performing maintenance on Swanson after she entered the reserve. After it is breathed in, asbestos fiber promotes tumor formation in the mesothelium and may cause pleural mesothelioma.Sources
Haze Gray & Underway. Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships. DD-443.
http://www.hazegray.org/danfs/destroy/dd443txt.htm) Retrieved 14 January 2011.
NavSource Naval History, USS Swanson (DD-443).
http://www.navsource.org/archives/05/443.htm) Retrieved 14 January 2011.