U.S.S. Woodson DE 359 (Destroyer Escort)
Designed and built for the task of escorting convoys, U.S.S. Woodson was built by Consolidated Steel Corporation in Orange, TX and commissioned in August of 1944. After a short period of training and operations in the Atlantic, Woodson transferred to the Pacific in the autumn of that year, for service against the Japanese.
Woodson provided the services for which it had been designed, escorting cargo vessels to various ports in the Philippines, until detaching to escort submarines to and from their respective departure point for wartime patrols.
At the end of wartime operations, Woodson continued its escort duties, chaperoning ships carrying occupation forces to Japan and the Korean peninsula. In November 1945, the ship returned to the United States and was decommissioned in San Pedro. Towed to San Diego, the ship was placed in the reserve fleet there and remained until reactivation in 1951.
Transferred to the Atlantic, with Newport RI as its home port, Woodson assumed a new role as a submarine hunter. The development of new tactics for the detection and tracking of submarines required ships with Woodson’s speed and maneuverability.
Woodson, along with the other ships of its hunter-killer group, patrolled the east coast of North America for the next five years, interrupted by maintenance periods in Newport. In addition to its duties as a submarine detector, Woodson also served as a target in training operations with US and allied submarines. Near the end of 1957, its home port was changed to Key West.
A Mediterranean cruise took up most of the remainder of 1957, Woodson did not return to Key West until November of that year, at which time the operational group to which it was attached was broken up. Woodson was transferred to New Orleans, LA, to assume its new role as a training ship for Naval Reservists.
Woodson’s new role required it to conduct training cruises, which took place in the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean. Training alongside the pier in New Orleans was also a large part of its assignment. Woodson continued in this role for the remainder of its career.
In 1959 the ship was decommissioned but continued to remain in active service as a training vessel. Woodson continued in this status until 1962 when the ship was placed in reserve and deactivated.
In 1965 the ship was sold for scrap. Final scrapping was completed by the Boston Metals Company in the summer of 1966.
Asbestos Exposure on U.S.S. Woodson
At the time Woodson was built, there were over three hundred materials used routinely in the construction of naval ships, materials which would have been found in nearly every space on the vessel. Asbestos was used to fireproof decks and bulkheads, in ventilation dampers and fire curtains, and in cements and solvents. As mandated by Congress after a boiler explosion in the 1930s, boilers were lined with asbestos, and numerous seals and gaskets were manufactured from the material.
Asbestos lagging proved thermal insulation on pipes which ran throughout the ship, including areas used for berthing and eating. The normal stresses imposed on a ship while underway would cause many of these materials to flex and twist, damaging the asbestos and allowing it to release fibers into the air, where they would be distributed by the ventilation system or by contact with clothing.
U.S.S. Woodson served its entire career before any serious efforts at curtailing the use of asbestos on ships began