USS Isherwood (DD-520)
The USS Isherwood (DD-520) served in the U.S. Navy for approximately three years during World War II, then again for a decade during the 1950s. She was named for Benjamin F. Isherwood, who served with the U.S. Navy during the Mexican War. Isherwood was built as a Fletcher-class ship.
Isherwood was laid down in Staten Island, New York by Bethlehem Steel in May 1942. She was launched in November 1942 and commissioned in April 1943, with Commander R.E. Gadrow at the helm. Isherwood carried a crew of 273 and had a cruising speed of 38 knots. She was armed with five five-inch anti-aircraft guns, four one and one-tenth-inch anti-aircraft guns, four 20-millimeter anti-aircraft guns, and ten 21-inch torpedo tubes.
Isherwood spent her initial months at sea in the North Atlantic. In August 1943, she sailed to England, where she served briefly with the British Home Fleet before re-assignment to the Pacific.
In December 1943, Isherwood began an eight-month stint sweeping for submarines in the waters off the coast of Alaska. She then steamed to Pearl Harbor to join the fleet preparing to invade the Philippines. In December 1944, Isherwood and her fleet were steaming to the Lingayen Gulf when they were attached by kamikaze pilots. Isherwood was responsible for bringing down at least one of the planes during the attack.
In April 1945, Isherwood was struck by a kamikaze plane while participating in the Okinawa operation. At first, it seemed that the fires would be easily extinguished, until a fire in the aft depth charge rack got out of hand and caused an explosion. Serious damage was done to the engine room, and 80 men were killed, wounded, or missing. Isherwood arrived in the US for repairs just as the war was ended, and she was soon decommissioned and placed on reserve.
Isherwood was recommissioned in April 1951. In the years that followed, she operated in the Mediterranean as part of a peace-keeping operation. In 1954, she was re-assigned to the Pacific, where she operated near Taiwan, Malaya, and Japan. She was instrumental in keeping a presence in the South China Sea aimed at lending strength to UN efforts.
Isherwood was again decommissioned in 1961. She was later loaned to Peru before being scrapped in 1981.
Asbestos Risk on the USS Isherwood (DD-520)
Asbestos was installed in nearly every compartment of Isherwood, but was most heavily concentrated in and around the engines and boilers. Steam pipes running nearly the length of the vessel were covered with asbestos insulation, and pumps, gaskets, and cements all contained the mineral. Nearly every sailor that served aboard Isherwood would have been exposed during his service. Breathing air contaminated with asbestos fibers has been shown to lead to a number of serious illnesses, including mesothelioma.
The explosion Isherwood suffered after the April 1945 kamikaze attack created an extreme asbestos hazard. Because then engine room was heavily damaged, much of the asbestos in that section would have been made friable, launching the dangerous fibers into the air. Crewmen performing damage control during that battle likely suffered toxic levels of exposure.
Haze Gray & Underway. Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships. DD-520. (http://www.hazegray.org/danfs/destroy/dd520txt.htm) Retrieved 22 January 2011.
NavSource Naval History, USS Isherwood (DD-520).
(http://www.navsource.org/archives/05/520.htm) Retrieved 22 January 2011.