USS Wilson (DD-408) was a Benham-class destroyer constructed for the U.S. Navy. She was named in honor of Charlie Wilson, who was a seaman during the American Civil War.
Wilson was laid down by the Puget Sound Navy Yard in Bremerton, Washington on March 22, 1937. Launched on April 12, 1939, she was sponsored by Mrs. Edward B. Fenner, who was the namesake’s wife. Lieutenant Commander Russell G. Sturge took command of Wilson on July 5, 1939.
Following commissioning, Wilson spent a year in Hawaiian waters before being transferred to the Atlantic. During the first several months of 1942, she provided escort to Iceland and the British Isles. She then conducted bombardment and anti-aircraft duties in Tulagi and Guadalcanal. On August 9, 1942, Wilson assisted with the Battle of Savo Island while rescuing survivors from several sunken cruisers.
In 1943, Wilson assisted with the Russell Islands landings, bombarding enemy positions in New Georgia before escorting shipments in the area around the Solomon Islands. Later that same year, she provided screening for the strikes against Nauru and Rabaul. In June and July of 1944, she assisted with the Marianas Campaign and the Battle of the Philippine Sea. During the Battle of the Philippine Sea, Wilson fired her guns at shore targets and small craft at Guam.
Following an overhaul that lasted from August through October, Wilson battled suicide planes while escorting a convoy to the central Philippines. The following month, Wilson once again engaged shore positions and hostile aircraft as part of the Lingayen Gulf invasion.
During a campaign in Okinawa on April 16, 1945, Wilson was hit by a kamikaze. The attack killed five her crewmen while also leaving an unexploded bomb in her hull. Following repair, Wilson served in the Okinawa area until June. She then performed operations out of Saipan until the war ended that August.
Following occupation duty through 1945, Wilson returned to the west coast. She was assigned to Operation Crossroads target duty the following May. After being made radioactive from the testing at Bikini, Wilson was decommissioned in August. On March 8, 1948, Wilson was sunk in deep waters off Kwajalein. Wilson received 11 battle stars for her service during World War II.
Asbestos Risk on the USS Wilson (DD-408)
Wilson employed asbestos inside machinery, valves, and pumps, in putty and cement, and even in the paint used to cover the ship. Asbestos insulation was used in most engineering sections. No area of the ship was completely free of the mineral, which means that every sailor on board had some risk of exposure. Inhaling asbestos fibers is known to cause mesothelioma.
Regular exposure carried the greatest risk, so those working in the engine room, as electricians or welders, or operating heavy machinery were the most likely to become ill. Damage control was also a high-risk assignment, as the impact of enemy fire could release clouds of asbestos fibers into the air. No matter what a sailor’s assignment was, if he was injured by asbestos while serving, he likely has legal options.Sources
Wilson. Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships. Department of the Navy – Naval Historical Center.