U.S.S. Southerland (DD-743)
Southerland was a Gearing-class destroyer. She served in WWII, Korea, and Vietnam.
Bath Iron Works laid down the destroyer on May 27, 1944 at Bath, ME. She was commissioned on December 22, 1944.
Southerland sailed for the Pacific on April 24, 1945. She made port at Pearl Harbor on May 15 and immediately headed for the combat zone. After shifting between forward bases, she caught up with the Fast Carrier Task Force at Leyte and sailed with them on July 1. She detached briefly on the 29th for a night bombardment of Hamamatsu, Japan, and once again on August 9, this time to bombard Kamaishi. After the end of hostilities on August 15, Southerland patrolled Japanese waters until January 1946, when she got underway for the west coast.
At San Diego, the destroyer sat in commissioned reserve until February 1947, when she began a series of deployments to the western pacific. She received upgrades to her detection systems in 1949, and was redesignated DDR-743 (radar picket destroyer) on March 18. She was in Hawaiian waters when war broke out in Korea. She sailed immediately, reaching the Korean area on July 19 as a shore bombardment ship. On September 15, she bombarded Inchon to soften it up for invasion. Southerland suffered minor damage in counter attacks the next day, but she remained on station.
The destroyer served as a plane guard for carriers off Korea until July 14, 1952, when she engaged North Korean shore batteries in a duel. Hit four times, Southerland suffered eight wounded and was able to make repairs at sea. When the ceasefire was called in 1953, she took up patrol duty along the truce line. The veteran destroyer had served in Korea for the duration of the war.
Southerland remained in the Pacific Fleet, conducting regular deployments to the Far East through the 1950s. In December 1957, she joined a naval force off Ceylon, providing humanitarian relief in the aftermath of massive floods. She reported to Vietnam briefly in November 1963 to protect American interests there. Upon her return to California, Southerland entered the Mare Island yard for conversion under the FRAM I (Fleet Rehabilitation and Modernization) program. Her superstructure was heavily upgraded and her no. 2 5-inch gun turret was removed to make room for an ASROC anti-submarine torpedo launcher. After post-upgrade shakedown, she sailed for Vietnam.
She arrived off Vietnam in March 1965 and set to work as a screen for the carriers of Task Force 77. In the summer, she transferred to coastal patrol as part of “Market Time” interdiction missions. During this time, she provided close-in gun support for U.S. Army I Corps operations. Southerland sailed for San Diego in September and spent the rest of 1965 there. Returning to Vietnam in July 1966, she joined the anti-submarine carrier Intrepid in operations near the Mekong River Delta. The destroyer detached from Intrepid in August and took up fire support duty for forces ashore. After a brief stint with the carrier Franklin D. Roosevelt, she shifted to search-and-rescue in the Tonkin Gulf.
Southerland returned to San Diego in November. After serving as a training ship and undergoing overhaul, she departed for Vietnamese waters on December 28, 1967. The destroyer served two more tours “in country”. During both deployments, she alternated between plane guard and search-and-rescue duty with the carriers, and inshore bombardment and support duty. Her last combat role in Vietnam came in 1971, when she served as a plane guard for Enterprise in the Tonkin Gulf.
The destroyer reported to Long Beach Naval Shipyard on June 2, 1972 for overhaul. At this time, her fuel system was converted from Navy Standard to Distillate fuel oil. Southerland returned to the fleet on November 9, and spent the remainder of her career as a training ship for Naval Reservists.
She was decommissioned at San Diego on February 26, 1981 and towed to San Francisco. There, she sat in reserve until the 1990s, when she was stripped of her armament and prepared for gunnery practice. On August 2, 1997, she sank after enduring a series of missile tests. Witnesses to her sinking noted her unusual ability to withstand the punishing effects of the tests.
Risk of Asbestos Exposure
Southerland was a steam-powered vessel built during WWII. Under U.S. Navy regulations at the time, her engines, boilers, and steam pipes would have been heavily insulated with asbestos.
Asbestos insulation breaks down into tiny fibers when damaged or worn. These fibers can spread easily throughout a ship via her ventilation system. Inhalation of asbestos is a proven cause of mesothelioma, a malignant lung cancer. There is no cure for mesothelioma, but treatments such as chemotherapy can be employed to fight the disease. If you or someone you know served aboard Southerland or worked on her in a shipyard, please fill out the form at the bottom of this page to receive free information regarding your rights to compensation.
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