USS Ordronaux (DD-617)
The USS Ordronaux (DD-617) served in the U.S. Navy in the mid-1940s during the Second World War, and received three battle stars for her war-time service. She was named for Captain John Ordronaux who served in the War of 1812. Ordronaux was commissioned as a Benson-class destroyer.
Ordronaux was laid down at Quincy, Massachusetts by the Bethlehem Steel Corporation in July 1942, launched in November 1942, and commissioned in February 1943 with Lieutenant Commander Robert Brodie, Jr., in command. Carrying a crew of 208, Ordronaux was armed with six one-half inch machine guns, four five-inch anti-aircraft guns, and ten 21-inch torpedo tubes. She had a cruising speed of 35 knots and was driven by Bethlehem turbines supporting a range of 6,500 nautical miles at 12 knots.
Ordronaux sailed from New York to Algeria in May 1943 on a convoy escort mission and engaged with German aircraft for the first time in July, shooting several of them down. During the invasion of Sicily, Ordronaux patrolled the harbor of Port Empedocle with a torpedo boat squadron to lure German and Italian vessels out. Ordronaux also provided fire support during the invasion, and then spent almost a year on convoy duty in the Atlantic and Mediterranean.
Ordronaux operated with a submarine hunter-killer group following this duty, and she and her squadron located U-856 in April 1944. While Champlin and Huse destroyed the sub, Ordronaux and Nields captured 28 surviving crew. Ordronaux returned to the Mediterranean in May, supporting the United States 5th Army while it advanced on Rome, and then operated during the offensive at Anzio, Italy later that month.
In August, Ordronaux conducted fire support for troops during the invasion of southern France, and once again resumed convoy duty after the assault. The destroyer returned to the United States in May 1945 and then was deployed to the Pacific, where she operated at Wake Island and Okinawa. Ordronaux served in the western Pacific during the occupation of Japan until October, and was decommissioned at Charleston, South Carolina in March 1946. The destroyer was struck from the Navy list in July 1971 and sold for scrap to Luria Brothers in March 1973.
Asbestos Risk on the USS Ordronaux (DD-617)
Asbestos fireproofing and insulation has been installed on board civilian and military ships such as Ordronaux since early 1900s. Ships contain a number of components that produce large amounts of thermal energy, such as turbines and engines, and asbestos was seen as the perfect insulator for these high-energy components. The U.S. Navy was an early adopter of asbestos and used the material well into the 1970s. Since asbestos was used so commonly on board, nearly every member of the crew were exposed during the course of his career.
Personnel who worked regularly with frayed or damaged asbestos fibers over a long period of time have a higher risk of developing mesothelioma than sailors with lower levels of exposure over the same time period, or a large amount of exposure in a short time period. Inhaling and ingestion of individual asbestos fibers can lead to the development of pleural or peritoneal mesothelioma. Because of the large amount of asbestos installed in Ordronaux and the other ships of this era, Navy veterans are at a high risk for these diseases.
Haze Gray & Underway. Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships. DD-617.
NavSource Naval History. USS Ordronaux (DD-617).