The USS Watts (DD-567) served in the U.S. Navy for two and a half decades in the mid 20th century. She was named for John Watts, a merchant captain who served in the Quasi-War with France. Watts was built as a Fletcher-class naval ship.
Watts was laid down at Seattle, Washington by the Seattle-Tacoma Shipbuilding Corporation in March 1943, launched in December, and commissioned in April 1944 under the Command of Joseph B. Maher. Carrying a crew of 273, Watts 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.
Watts conducted training and testing operations on the west coast and was deployed at sea in July with a convoy of troop transports to Hawaii. In port at Pearl Harbor for a few days, Watts sailed with Destroyer Division 113 to the Aleutian Islands, where she remained for seven months on convoy escort and patrol duty. Watts then participated in the bombing of the Kuril Islands, which was delayed several times due to storms.
Watts alternated between Aleutian deployments and training and repairs in Hawaii, and returned to Pearl Harbor in April to prepare for deployment to Okinawa. The destroyer arrived there in May, two months into the campaign, and served as a radar picket while successfully evading attacks by kamikaze planes. In August, Watts screened vessels of Task Force 38 in Japanese waters during the country’s surrender.
Watts returned to the United States in mid-November, and was decommissioned in April 1946 at the Charleston Navy Yard. She remained in reserve until July 1951, and then operated with the Destroyer Force, Atlantic Fleet until being deployed to the Mediterranean with the 6th Fleet in January 1953. Following anti-submarine service, Watts was overhauled at Norfolk, Virginia in April 1954 and transferred to the west coast, from which she served three tours of duty in the western Pacific.
Watts became the flagship of Reserve Escort Squadron 1 from June 1958 to March 1962 based in the Seattle and Tacoma area. From January 1962 to December 1964, Watts alternated between naval reserve training and deployments to the western Pacific with the 7th Fleet. Watts was decommissioned in December 1964 at Bremerton, Washington, struck from the Navy list in February 1974, and sold for scrap in September.
Asbestos Risk on the USS Watts (DD-567)
Asbestos products could be found almost everywhere on Watts. The versatile mineral was used as a heat and electrical insulator. It was applied to boilers and steam pipes. Nearly fireproof, asbestos was mixed into many shipbuilding materials to make them more fire resistant. Cements, adhesives and gaskets all contained asbestos. The high concentration of asbestos products on the Navy ships of this era has resulted in many Navy veterans developing mesothelioma and other asbestos-related illnesses.
Damaged and worn asbestos products release tiny fibers in clouds of microscopic dust. The wear and tear of regular duty was enough to make Watts an asbestos hazard. Her time in combat only increases the risk. Sailors with a diagnosis of mesothelioma have legal recourse available to them.Sources
Haze Gray & Underway. Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships. DD-567.
NavSource Naval History. USS Watts (DD-567).
Tin Can Sailors. John Watts.