USS Billingsley (DD-293) was one of more than 150 Clemson-class destroyers to be constructed for the US Navy after World War I. She was named in honor of William Billingsley, who was one of the first pilots with the US Navy. Billingsley, who was designated as Naval Aviator No. 9, was killed in an airplane crash while piloting the B-2 over waters near Annapolis, Maryland. He was the first naval aviator be killed in an airplane accident.
Billingsley was launched by Bethlehem Steel Corporation in Squantum, Massachusetts on December 10, 1919. She was sponsored by Miss Irene Billingsley, who was the sister of Ensign Billingsley. Commander H.D. Cooke took command of Billingsley on March 1, 1920.
As was the case with all Clemson-class destroyers, Billingsley could reach speeds of up to 35 knots. Unlike the Wickes class before it, Clemson-class destroyers featured wing tanks on either side of the ship. These tanks, which were located above the water line, made it possible for the ships to carry more fuel than the previous classes of destroyers. The downside to this feature was that the tank location of the tanks made them more vulnerable to attack. Clemson-class destroyers also featured a larger rudder than the previous class, which reduced their turning radius. Another feature that differentiated Clemson-class destroyers from previous destroyers was the fact that they featured an additional set of 3-inch 23 caliber anti-aircraft guns.
Following commissioning, Billingsley joined Destroyer Force, Atlantic Fleet. She participated in operations in the Caribbean as well as along the east coast until the summer of 1920. She then assisted with Naval Reserve training cruises until June 1922. At this time, Billingsley joined US Naval Forces Europe along with the rest of Division 26. She then cruised in Mediterranean and European waters for the next years, during which time she assisted refugees in the Near East.
In the spring of 1925, Billingsley served as a plane guard for the Army’s “Around-the-World Flight” crossing of the North Atlantic. Billingsley returned home later that same year, at which time she continued performing routine activities along the east coast. She continued to serve in this capacity until the summer of 1929, at which time she once again conducted Naval Reserve cruises.
In September 1929, Billingsley reported to the Philadelphia Navy Yard. She was decommissioned on May 1, 1930 and was sold on January 17 the following year.
Asbestos Risk on the USS Billingsley (DD-293)
Using asbestos in the design of marine vessels was mandated by Congress in the early 1930s, after a deadly fire aboard a luxury liner caused the deaths of more than 100 passengers and crew. Ships like Billingsley made use of asbestos insulation in large amounts in engines and engine spaces, and in fireproofing in all sections of the ship. If asbestos becomes worn it becomes "friable", meaning that the fibers can break off and escape into the air, and then are inhaled or ingested by naval personnel or dockworkers, increasing the chances of contracting mesothelioma.
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Billingsley. Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships. Department of the Navy – Naval Historical Center.
http://www.history.navy.mil/danfs/b6/billingsley-i.htm Retrieved 31 December 2010.