The USS Twiggs (DD-591) served in the U.S. Navy during World War II until being sunk by Japanese aircraft. She was named for Lieutenant Levi Twiggs who served in the War of 1812 and in the Indian Wars in Florida and Georgia. Twiggs was commissioned as a Fletcher-class vessel.
Twiggs was laid down by the Charleston Navy Yard in January 1943, launched in April, and commissioned in November with Commander John B. Fellows, Jr., in command. Carrying a crew of 273, Twiggs was 376 feet, five inches in length and armed with five 5-inch anti-aircraft guns, ten 21-inch torpedo tubes, four 1.1-inch anti-aircraft guns, and four 20-millimeter anti-aircraft guns.
Twiggs began her naval service as a training vessel out of Norfolk, Virginia until May 1944, when she was deployed to Hawaii with Franklin, Cushing, and Richard P. Lear. At Pearl Harbor, Twiggs participated in training exercises and convoy escort duty between Oahu and Eniwetok.
Assigned to Destroyer Squadron 49, Twiggs operated in the Admiralty Islands to prepare for the invasion of the Philippines. Twiggs protected troop transport vessels from enemy aircraft on the way to Leyte in October, and performed the same duties during the operation there. Following the Leyte invasion, Twiggs conducted escort duty with Haraden and Halligan in the Palau Islands.
Twiggs participated in the occupation of Mindoro Island in December, where the fleet endured an increasing threat from Japanese kamikazes. While on convoy duty, Twiggs detached and aided Haraden which was struck by enemy aircraft. In January 1945, Twiggs protected the task force en-route to Luzon for the invasion. Several ships were hit by kamikazes in the Sulu and South China Seas, and the kamikaze attacks continued as Twiggs served off Cape Bolinao during the Lingayen assault.
Twiggs conducted fire support for underwater demolition teams at Iwo Jima in February. She experienced a close call with a kamikaze but the plane landed in the water and sank. In March, Twiggs conducted bombardment, anti-submarine, and anti-aircraft activities at Okinawa, and then commenced radar picket duty in April, during which she was damaged by a kamikaze attack, but continued her duty. However, a kamikaze launched a successful attack on Twiggs in June, first via torpedo and then by suicide strike, but 188 survivors were rescued. Twiggs was struck from the Navy list in July 1946.
Asbestos Risk on the USS Twiggs (DD-591)
As asbestos was used in hundreds of applications, the toxic fibers could be found almost everywhere on Twiggs. Some sections on board the vessel contained boilers and power plants and thus had more asbestos for insulation. Even though contamination from asbestos was most widespread in the engineering areas, it was widely distributed throughout the ship.
Practically everyone in the crew suffered exposure to asbestos-containing materials. Crew members who were stationed in the engineering section, worked with machinery, or assigned to damage control parties faced daily exposure to the mineral. Increase exposure also increased the likelihood of a sailor developing mesothelioma later in life.
Asbestos products that are friable are the most dangerous. Such products shed individual asbestos fibers when handled or disturbed. Combat operations would have left much of the asbestos insulation aboard Twiggs in a friable state. Her 188 survivors faced a significantly elevated risk for asbestos disease.Sources
Haze Gray & Underway. Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships. DD-591.
http://www.hazegray.org/danfs/destroy/dd591txt.htm) Retrieved 25 January 2011.
NavSource Naval History. USS Twiggs (DD-591).
http://www.navsource.org/archives/05/591.htm) Retrieved 25 January 2011.