The USS Van Valkenburgh (DD-656) served in the U.S. Navy for nearly a decade in the mid-20th century. She was named for Franklin Van Valkenburgh who served in World War I and perished as the commanding officer aboard USS Arizona during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Van Valkenburgh was commissioned as a Fletcher-class naval destroyer.
Van Valkenburgh was laid down at Chickasaw, Alabama by the Gulf Shipbuilding Corporation in November 1942, launched in December 1943, and commissioned in August 1944 with Commander Alexander B. Coxe, Jr., in command. Carrying a crew of 273, Van Valkenburgh was armed with ten 21-inch torpedo tubes, five 5-inch anti-aircraft guns, four 1.1 inch anti-aircraft guns, and four 20-millimeter anti-aircraft guns.
Van Valkenburgh was commissioned with the same flag that was used on Arizona during the Pearl Harbor attack. The destroyer patrolled near disabled Army tug LT-18 in August 1944, before undergoing training at Bermuda; Charleston, South Carolina; and Hampton Roads. Van Valkenburgh escorted a troop convoy from San Diego to Hawaii in November.
In January 1945, Van Valkenburgh operated in the Marianas and then Iwo Jima in February. During this operation, Van Valkenburgh conducted patrols during the troop landings and also provided gunfire support. The destroyer escorted ships between Iwo Jima and Saipan until mid-March, and then operated during the invasion of Okinawa in April. Van Valkenburgh aided several enemy-stricken vessels throughout her 63 days in Okinawan waters, conducted various bombardments, and served as a radar picket station.
Van Valkenburgh departed for the Philippines in late June and then returned to Okinawa five days later, and after Japan surrendered, served patrol duty during the occupation off Kyushu. She arrived at Nagasaki Harbor in mid-September, where the crew observed the devastation from the atomic bomb dropped a month before. Van Valkenburgh arrived in the United States in December, and was place in reserve in April 1946 until August 1950.
Following training, Van Valkenburgh sailed for Japan in June and operated off Korea until the fall of 1952, when she commenced patrols at Formosa Strait and then circumnavigated the globe. Van Valkenburgh reached Norfolk, Virginia in December, and was placed in reserve in August 1953. Decommissioned in February 1954, Van Valkenburgh was transferred to Turkey in February 1967, renamed Izmir, and was struck from the Navy list in February 1973. She was broken up for scrap in 1987.
Asbestos Risk on the USS Van Valkenburgh (DD-656)
Because asbestos insulation was found all over Van Valkenburgh, her entire crew risked exposure during the course of their careers. Shipyard workers that built and maintained the ship were also exposed to large quantities of asbestos. When inhaled, tiny asbestos fibers can become stuck in the lungs and eventually can cause the development of pleural mesothelioma.
As asbestos is the only known cause for mesothelioma cancer, there are usually legal options for victims of the disease. An experienced mesothelioma lawyer will examine your service and employment history to help identify the asbestos products that may have contributed to your disease. The companies that made those products are often held liable for the harm they caused.Sources
Haze Gray & Underway. Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships. DD-656.
NavSource Naval History. USS Van Valkenburgh (DD-656).