The USS Gearing (DD-710) served in the U.S. Navy for nearly three decades in the mid-20th century. She was named for Henry Chalfant Gearing, Henry Chalfant Gearing, Jr., and Henry Chalfant Gearing III. Gearing was the flagship of her class of destroyers.
Gearing was laid down at Newark, New Jersey by the Federal Shipbuilding and Dry Dock Company in August 1944, launched in February 1945, and commissioned in May with Commander T. H. Copeman in command. Carrying a crew of 336, Gearing was 390 feet, six inches long and armed six five-inch anti-aircraft guns, twelve 40-millimeter anti-aircraft guns, eleven 20-millimeter anti-aircraft guns, and ten 21-inch torpedo tubes. She had a cruising speed of 36.8 knots and a range of 4,500 nautical miles at 20 knots.
Gearing conducted pre-commissioning training for crews of other destroyers at Norfolk from July to October 1945, when she sailed for Casco, Maine. Tours of the ship were made available to 5,000 citizens during Navy-day celebrations at New London, Connecticut. After screening aircraft carrier Ranger in November, Gearing was assigned to peacetime operations in the Atlantic, the Caribbean, and the Mediterranean. Gearing returned to the Mediterranean in 1948 and visited several nations, and was deployed there again in 1949.
Gearing participated in Operation Frostbite in the fall of 1949, during which she helped test and develop cold weather techniques and equipment. Following another deployment to the Mediterranean in 1951, Gearing was assigned to training duty from Cuba to Nova Scotia. Gearing continued annual cruises to the Mediterranean into the 1960s and underwent an overhaul at Boston in late 1961 and early 1962.
Gearing was deployed for patrol duty during the Cuban Missile Crisis. This duty lasted throughout October 1962. In March 1963, Gearing sailed to the Mediterranean and returned to Newport, Rhode Island in September where she received a FRAM 1 overhaul. The destroyer operated in the Caribbean and North Atlantic throughout the spring and summer of 1964, joined the 6th Fleet in October, and resumed duties with the Atlantic Fleet into 1967 and beyond. Gearing was decommissioned and struck from the Navy list in July 1973 and sold for scrap to Aardvark International in November 1974.
Asbestos Risk on the USS Gearing (DD-710)
Since asbestos was so versatile, it could be found almost everywhere on naval vessels. Servicemen stationed or performing repair work on Gearing were probably exposed to asbestos fibers to one degree or another. Some crewmen had a greater exposure risk, particularly those assigned to the engine room, working on heavy machinery, dealing with fire, or serving in damage control parties.
High levels of asbestos could also be found in dock facilities and sailors and workers were often exposed to it there. Family members of those that repaired and refitted Gearing might have suffered secondhand exposure to the mineral, as it was easily carried home on uniforms and work clothes. When inhaled or ingested, asbestos dust can become lodged in the respiratory tract and can eventually result in mesothelioma. Legal options are often available to those suffering from asbestos-related illness.
Haze Gray & Underway. Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships. DD-710.
NavSource Naval History. USS Hugh Purvis (DD-710).