USS Abel P. Upshur (DD-193) was a Clemson-class destroyer constructed for the US Navy. She was the first of two ships to be named in honor of Abel Parker Upshur, who was an American lawyer, a judge and a politician as well as the Secretary of the Navy under President John Tyler.
Abel P. Upshur was laid down by the Newport News Shipbuilding & Dry-dock Co. in Newport News, Virginia on August 20, 1918. Launched on February 14, 1920, she was sponsored by Mrs. George J. Benson, who was the great-great niece of Secretary Upshur. Lieutenant Vincent H. Godfrey took command of Abel P. Upshur at the Norfolk Navy Yard on November 23, 1920.
Following her commissioning, Abel P. Upshur began operating out of the Washington Navy Yard. During this time, she served as a training ship for Naval Reserve personnel serving out of the District of Columbia. Abel P. Upshur continued to serve in this capacity until November 45, 1930, at which time she was transferred to the Treasury Department and her name was removed from the Navy List. She then served the Coast Guard in enforcing Prohibition regulations.
On May 21, 1934, Abel P. Upshur was returned to the Navy, though she was laid up in Philadelphia for over five years. On December 4, 1939, she was recommissioned and assigned to the Atlantic Squadron. At that point, Abel P. Upshur began performing neutrality enforcement patrols along the east coast until she was decommissioned on September 9, 1940. At this time, she was transferred to Britain under the destroyers for bases agreement. Abel P. Upshur’s name was removed once again from the Navy list on January 8, 1941.
After being renamed HMS Clare, the former Abel P. Upshur was assigned to the 1st “Town-class” Flotilla. In September 1940, she joined Escort Group 7 in Belfast, Northern Ireland, where she assisted with the escort of transatlantic convoys. On February 20, 1941, the former Abel P. Upshur rescued the Rigmor crew after the steamship started to sink. The following day, she was damaged after colliding with the motor vessel Petertown.
After undergoing repairs and being modified to serve as a long range trade convoy service ship, the former Abel P. Upshur took part in the invasion of North Africa. Throughout 1942, she actively engaged in covering landings and even claimed to have sunk a German U-boat. In 1943, the former Abel P. Upshur assisted with the invasion of Sicily before being drydocked in September of that year. The following year, she served as a target ship before being placed in reserve in Greenock, Scotland in August 1945.
Asbestos Risk on the USS Abel P. Upshur (DD-193)
The installation of asbestos in the construction of naval ships was required by law in the United States in the early 1930s, after a fire at sea on the SS Morro Castle caused the deaths of more than 100 passengers and crew. Vessels like Abel P. Upshur deployed asbestos insulation heavily, especially in engines and engine spaces, and to insulate steam pipes in all sections of the ship. If asbestos is worn or damaged it becomes friable, meaning that the fibers can break off and enter the atmosphere, allowing them to be inhaled or ingested by crewmen or dockworkers, potentially leading to the development of mesothelioma. The damage brought about by asbestos occurs when tiny particles are inhaled; the fibers infiltrate the respiratory system and sometimes other organs, leading to development of scar tissue in the case of pleural plaques and damage at the DNA level in the case of mesothelioma.
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Abel P. Upshur. Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships. Department of the Navy – Naval Historical Center. (http://www.history.navy.mil/danfs/a1/abel_p_upshur.htm) Retrieved 24 December 2010