U.S.S. Sproston (DD/DDE-577)

Sproston was a Fletcher-class destroyer. She served in WWII, Korea, and Viet Nam.

Construction

Consolidated Steel Co laid her down at Orange, TX on April 1, 1942. She commissioned on May 19, 1943.

Service

The brand new destroyer was transferred to the Pacific Theater. She arrived at Pearl Harbor on November 15, and sailed for Alaska, arriving there December 1. Sproston shelled targets in the Aleutian Islands until August 8, 1944, when she headed for the South Pacific. In October, she took up duty as a screen for invasion transports as they headed to the Philippines. She shot down her first enemy plane of the war on the 25th and claimed two more on November 18.

On January 29, 1945, Sproston became the first U.S. warship to enter Subic Bay since the Japanese occupation of the Philippines. She arrived at Kerama Retto in the Ryuku Islands on March 26 and began radar picket and fire support duty. On April 4, an enemy bomber dropped its payload close by the destroyer, damaging her sonar and main battery fire control. While her sonar was easily repaired at sea, her main guns had to be controlled individually. Repaired at Guam, she was back on station just two weeks later.

Sproston was on her way to the west coast for overhaul on June 28 when she was signaled by the cargo ship Antares. Antares was under submarine attack and needed assistance. In the pitched battle, Sproston conducted heavy depth charge attacks, spotting an oil slick in the water. She was then forced to dodge a torpedo fired at her. Antares spotted a midget submarine, and in an uncanny repeat of events at Pearl Harbor, Sproston sank the tiny sub with gunfire (just before the attack on Pearl Harbor, Antares spotted a midget submarine trying to sneak by and alerted the destroyer Ward, which sank the sub with gunfire).

The destroyer arrived at San Francisco on July 14 and began overhaul. While she was still in the shipyard, WWII came to an end. At the completion of her overhaul, Sproston sailed to San Diego, where she was decommissioned on January 18, 1946. In 1950, communist North Korea invaded her democratic southern neighbor, and Sproston joined the large group of WWII warships being reactivated. Recommissioned September 15, she was redesignated DDE-577 (escort destroyer, not to be confused with destroyer escort, a smaller, slower ship).

Her first assignment under this designation was an observation assignment for the Eniwetok atomic bomb tests. With tests over in July 1951, Sproston reported to her new homeport of Pearl Harbor. She spent the rest of 1951 in routine exercises and patrols. Early in 1952, she was overhauled and in June, she sailed for Korean waters. She joined U.S. carriers as a screen on the 15th, providing cover and plane guard services as they launched daily strikes into the Korean peninsula. She completed her first and only tour in the Korean conflict in November and headed back to Pearl Harbor, arriving December 5.

Sproston continued her previous routine of patrols and exercises through the 1950s. In 1962, she and all other DDEs in the Navy were redesignated DDs, as the “escort destroyer” label was abandoned. She entered the shipyard at Pearl Harbor in March 1965, beginning a five-month overhaul that would prepare her for duty in a new warzone, Viet Nam.

The destroyer sortied on December 27 with the carrier Ranger and her battle group. On January 16, 1966, they arrived at “Dixie Station”, an area of the South China Sea near the Mekong River Delta used by U.S. carriers launching strikes against Viet Nam. She served as an escort in Ranger’s group until February 13, when she joined anti-submarine patrols in the area. Sproston was briefly detached from this duty to provide gunfire support in Phnoc Hui Bay on the 18th. The next day, she rejoined Ranger at “Yankee Station” in the Tonkin Gulf. Sproston alternated between the carrier group and close-in shore bombardments during this time. On March 9, during a twenty-day period on gun support duty, her fire helped to repel an entire battalion of enemy troops.

Sproston returned to Pearl Harbor in May and was assigned to recovery duty for the AS-202, an unmanned test module for the Apollo program. At Pearl, she was fitted with a special crane. The destroyer was stationed off Kwajalein in the Pacific, ready in case the module landed in that area. The unit touched down where it was supposed to, some 200 miles away from her, and the designated recovery ship Hornet fished it out of the water. Sproston returned to Pearl Harbor on September 2, spending the rest of 1966 operating there.

She deployed to Viet Nam again on March 6, 1967. As with her first tour, the destroyer alternated between carrier battle groups and shore bombardments. Sproston left Viet Nam for the last time on August 4 and joined Carpenter in an anti-submarine exercise with British and New Zealand naval units. With this complete, she sailed for Hawaii. After general maintenance and a brief visit to Guam, the destroyer sailed for San Diego on July 29, 1968. Upon her arrival, she was notified that she would be decommissioned.

Fate

Sproston left naval service on September 30, 1968. She was struck from the Navy List on October 10 and sold for scrap.

Risk of Asbestos Exposure

When Sproston was built, steam-powered vessels were required to receive extensive asbestos insulation to prevent fire. To this end, her boilers, engines, and steam pipes would have been covered in asbestos.

Asbestos products break down into tiny fibers when damaged or worn. Inhalation of these fibers is a proven cause of mesothelioma, a malignant lung cancer. There is no cure for mesothelioma, but treatments such as chemotherapy can be used to fight the disease.

If you or someone you know served aboard Sproston or worked on her in a shipyard and has contracted mesothelioma, please fill out the form at the bottom of this page to receive free information regarding your rights to compensation.

Resources/Further Reading

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