U.S.S. Laffey DD 724 (Destroyer)
U.S.S. Laffey was built at Bath Iron Works in Maine and entered the naval service in February 1944. Although the primary role of destroyers would change significantly during the next thirty years, Laffey would remain in service, adapting its mission and modifying its equipment over the three decades of its career.
After acceptance into the Navy, Laffey proceeded to the UK, providing convoy escort en route, to prepare to take part in the Normandy invasion. On D-Day and the ensuing build-up, Laffey bombarded shore batteries, screened against German U-boats, and provided anti-aircraft defense.
After overhaul and modification on the east coast, with the Allied beachhead in Europe successfully established, Laffey headed to the Pacific for action against the Japanese. Laffey arrived in that theatre in time to participate in shore bombardments in the Philippines, and in the Okinawa invasion in 1945. During that campaign, Life was struck and severely damaged in a kamikaze attack. Four bombs, six kamikaze attacks, and strafing fire all struck the ship, disabling it and causing over one hundred casualties, including thirty-two dead.
Towed to Okinawa for emergency repairs, Laffey made its way to the United States to repair the extensive damage at Tacoma, WW. Repaired and underway by September of that year, Laffey’s next major assignment was to participate in the atomic bomb tests at Bikini Atoll, collecting scientific data and requiring extensive decontamination of radioactive materials as a result.
Laffey served a tour in Korea in 1952, where it screened carriers, blockaded Korean waters, interdicted smugglers, and engaged in artillery duels with shore batteries. Following that tour Laffey engaged in anti-submarine warfare training and activities to help counteract the growing threat from Soviet submarines during the Cold War.
Transferred to the Atlantic, where it served the remainder of its distinguished career, Laffey made numerous trips to the Mediterranean, joining the Sixth fleet there, operated in the Caribbean and North Atlantic and conducted training exercises with US submarines and patrol aircraft. In 1975 the old warrior was decommissioned and struck from the Naval Register.
Laffey is preserved as a museum ship at Patriot’s Point in Charleston SC.
Asbestos Exposure on U.S.S. Laffey
In 2009 Laffey entered dry dock in North Charleston for repairs to its hull that had reduced the ship to a near sinking condition. In addition to the hull repair, work orders noted that “friable asbestos was remediated as needed.”
Like all World War II-era destroyers, asbestos was present throughout the ship, in virtually all systems and equipment that required insulation from heat and/or resistance from fire. Laffey’s career was long; the ship fought the heavy weather and high seas the way all destroyers of its day did. It rolled and pitched like a roller coaster, often for days at a time. The strains on its hull and installed equipment would cause damage to materials containing asbestos and the release of asbestos fibers into the air.
As of 2009, asbestos was still present on Laffey, and in a friable condition, meaning that it would crumble easily, allowing its fibers to be released.