USS William C. Lawe (DD-763)
The USS William C. Lawe (DD-763) served in the U.S. Navy for approximately four decades during the middle of the 20th century. She was named for William Clare Lawe, a former U.S. Navy officer. William C. Lawe was built as a Gearing-class ship.
William C. Lawe was laid down in San Francisco, California by Bethlehem Steel in March 1944. She was launched in May 1945 and commissioned in December 1946, with Commander George F. Lee at the helm. William C. Lawe carried a crew of 336 and had a cruising speed of 36.8 knots. She was armed with six five-inch anti-aircraft guns, twelve 40-millimeter anti-aircraft guns, eleven 20-millimeter anti-aircraft guns, and ten 21-inch torpedo tubes.
William C. Lawe began her service in the Pacific in October 1947. After a few months at Pearl Harbor, she soon departed on a goodwill around-the-world cruise. Upon her return to the U.S., William C. Lawe operated locally in the San Diego area until 1949, when she was reassigned to the Atlantic fleet.
At the start of 1950, William C. Lawe began a stint in the Caribbean, which included escorting President Truman as he sailed his yacht to Key West. In 1951, the vessel headed for the Mediterranean. She returned to the U.S. in May and spent the following year along the east coast and in the Northern Atlantic. In August 1952, William C. Lawe joined NATO exercises near Norway and Denmark, and 1953 through 1960 included various additional operations in the Caribbean, along the eastern seaboard, and in the Mediterranean. The ship received her fleet rehabilitation and modernization (FRAM) overhaul shortly thereafter.
The 1960s found William C. Lawe involved in many NATO operations and training missions across the globe. Things changed in 1972, when the ship was deployed to Southeast Asia to support actions in Vietnam. There, she supported raids on the North Vietnamese coastline and provided backup gunfire. She was in the area at the time of the 1973 ceasefire and assisted with the evacuation of troops and POWs.
The remaining years of William C. Lawe’s tenure at sea included training missions and various exercises. She was eventually decommissioned in 1983 and stricken from the Navy list. She was sunk as a target in 1999.
Asbestos Risk on the USS William C. Lawe (DD-763)
Asbestos was deployed in larger quantities in certain sections of William C. Lawe. Areas that posed a fire hazard, such as engineering and the boiler room, were fireproofed with asbestos materials. Boilers and turbines employed asbestos insulation to shield crewmen from the intense heat those systems generated. Asbestos was also used to pack pumps and valves, for gaskets, and to insulate pipes and compartments all over the vessel.
Sailors with the greatest exposure to asbestos were the most likely to be harmed by that exposure. That means that crewmen with engineering assignments, electricians, welders, and steamfitters were at higher risk than many of their peers. But because there was no safe level of asbestos exposure, any sailor that served aboard William C. Lawe might have later developed mesothelioma or other asbestos ailments.
Haze Gray & Underway. Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships. DD-763.
NavSource Naval History, USS William C. Lawe (DD-763).