The USS Williamson (DD-244) served in the U.S. Navy for over two and a half decades in the early 20th century. She was named for William Price Williamson, who served with the U.S. Navy during World War I. Williamson was built as a Clemson-class ship.
Williamson was laid down in Camden, New Jersey by the New York Shipbuilding Company in March 1919, launched in October, and commissioned in October 1920 with Lieutenant Commander J.C. Cunningham in command. Carrying a crew of 114, Williamson was armed with four 4-inch rapid-fire guns, one three-inch anti-aircraft gun, and twelve 21-inch torpedo tubes.
Williamson was deployed to France and England after departing the east coast of the United States, and then sailed to the Mediterranean to operate off of Turkey and Russia. In September 1922, Williamson joined the Atlantic Fleet and conducted battle practice off Hampton Roads, Virginia; Newport, Rhode Island; and Guantanamo Bay. Williamson was placed in rotating reserve at Norfolk in December 1932, and returned to the east coast at Washington Navy Yard for installation of sonar equipment, and then was re-deployed to San Diego in November 1934.
Williamson underwent conversion to auxiliary vessel APV-15 for aviation duty in June 1938, which added 30-foot motor launches for sea planes and four anti-aircraft machine guns. She served between the west coast and Hawaii when World War II began in Europe, and then operated as an escort and materials transport to Seattle and Alaskan Navy bases beginning in December 1941. When the Japanese invaded the Aleutians, six men were wounded when enemy planes attacked Williamson, and also suffered an explosion when towing Catalina from Dutch Harbor in August 1942, which wounded 16 crew members.
In January 1943, Williamson was reclassified as a carrier escort and operated out of Puget Sound and San Diego, but aided in the invasion and occupation of Kiska and Attu in the Aleutians in April and May. Williamson was repaired at Mare Island Navy Yard in January 1944 and served as an escort in the Solomon Islands and New Guinea. In June, Williamson reported for battle in Saipan and in July, refueled spotter planes at Guam. She rescued survivors of ditched carrier planes and provided medical and damage control assistance during the bombardment of Iwo Jima.
Williamson conducted anti-submarine operations and refueling duty at Okinawa, and then escorted carriers in the Marianas until August 1945. She was decommissioned at Philadelphia in November and sold for scrap to the North American Smelting Company in October 1946.
Asbestos Risk on the USS Williamson (DD-244)
Industrial sites began using ACMs (asbestos-containing materials) late in the 19th century because it was extremely useful in industrial applications. By the 1930s, new safety regulations requiring the use of asbestos insulation aboard seagoing vessels were implemented. Although Williamson was laid down before those regulations were in place, ships of her era used asbestos extensively in their engine rooms to protect boilers, engines, and other heavy machinery. After several decades, medical science began to realize that exposure to asbestos was more dangerous than previously thought, and restrictions regarding its use were put into place around 1979.
Repair and drydock service members were also exposed to asbestos fibers at high levels, particularly boilermakers, pipefitters, and shipfitters. A dock worker's family could also be placed at risk because these workers would bring the dust of asbestos products home on their clothing.
When inhaled into the lungs, asbestos material damages the thin membrane known as the mesothelium and can then cause mesothelioma. Pleural mesothelioma is just one of a variety of ailments caused by asbestos, many of which are very serious. As it has become clear that the use of asbestos can cause life-threatening diseases and possible death, legal options are often available to those who have developed asbestos-related diseases.Sources
Haze Gray & Underway. Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships. DD-244. (http://www.hazegray.org/danfs/destroy/dd244txt.htm) Retrieved 30 December 2010.
NavSource Naval History, USS Williamson (DD-244).
(http://www.navsource.org/archives/05/244.htm) Retrieved 30 December 2010.