The USS Murphy (DD-603) was commissioned by the U.S. Navy during World War II and remained on the Navy list until 1970. She was named for civil engineer and Acting Lieutenant John McLeod Murphy who served in the Civil War. Murphy was built as a Benson-class vessel.
Murphy was laid down at Staten Island, New York by the Bethlehem Steel Corporation in May 1941, launched in April 1942, and commissioned in July with Lieutenant Commander Leonard W. Bailey in command. Carrying a crew of 208, Murphy was armed with six one-half inch machine guns, four five-inch anti-aircraft guns, and ten 21-inch torpedo tubes.
Murphy was assigned to the Center Attack Group, Western Naval Task Force, and sailed from Norfolk, Virginia to Morocco for the invasion of North Africa in October 1942. During this deployment, Murphy was struck by enemy fire, resulting in the death of three crew members. Murphy continued with the assault, and received complete repairs at Boston in late November. She was then assigned to escort duty between New York and Panama as well as Norfolk and Casablanca, before participating in combat operations at Sicily and Palermo in July and August 1943.
After returning to the United States, Murphy escorted convoys to the United Kingdom, and in October, was struck by tanker Bulkoil. The front half of Murphy sank along with 38 crew members, and the destroyer underwent seven months of repairs at the New York Navy Yard. Murphy returned to service for the Normandy invasion in June 1944 and remained there to screen transports and provide fire support through the middle of the month.
Murphy also participated in the invasion of southern France in July, supporting the operation with the same duties, and returned to New York in September for overhaul. After resuming service in late 1944, Murphy operated as an escort for Quincy that carried President Franklin D. Roosevelt to Malta and Egypt. Murphy also transported royal dignitaries from Saudi Arabia to the conference there.
Following the end of World War II in the Atlantic, Murphy was deployed to the Pacific for service with the 5th Fleet, and assisted in the occupation of Japan from September to November 1945. Murphy then returned to the United States and was decommissioned in March 1946, struck from the Navy list in November 1970, and sold for scrap in October 1972.
Asbestos Risk on the USS Murphy (DD-603)
Murphy used asbestos materials in nearly every compartment. Products made with asbestos were inexpensive, efficient, durable, and both heat and fire resistant. Engine rooms, boilers, steam pipes, and pumps all made extensive use of asbestos products. The mineral was also mixed into paints, glues, and cements used on board. Nearly every sailor that served aboard Murphy likely suffered some degree of asbestos exposure during his service.
The collision with Bulkoil increased the asbestos risk on Murphy. When asbestos materials are torn or waterlogged, they become friable. A friable asbestos product releases clouds of tiny fibers when moved or handled. Those airborne fibers are amongst the most dangerous, because they cannot be seen and are easily inhaled by unprotected personnel. The incidence of mesothelioma cancer is greatest amongst those with sustained exposure to airborne asbestos.
Haze Gray & Underway. Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships. DD-603.
NavSource Naval History. USS Murphy (DD-603).