The USS Bristol (DD-453) served in the U.S. Navy for two years in the early 20th century before being sunk by a German submarine. She was named for Rear Admiral Mark Lambert Bristol who served in the Spanish-American War and World War I, and commanded the Asiatic Fleet beginning in 1927. Bristol was laid down as a Gleaves-class vessel.
Bristol was laid down at Kearny, New Jersey by the Federal Shipbuilding and Dry Dock Company in December 1940, launched in July 1941, and commissioned in October with Lieutenant Commander C.C. Wood in command. Carrying a crew of 208, Bristol was 348 feet, five inches long and armed with four five-inch anti-aircraft guns, six one-half inch machine guns, and ten 21-inch torpedo tubes. She was driven by Westinghouse geared turbines and could travel at a cruising speed of 35 knots.
Bristol was assigned to patrol and convoy escort duty for her first year of service with the U.S. Navy. During this deployment, Bristol operated in the North Atlantic and made several voyages to Ireland. Bristol was deployed to North Africa in October 1942 in participation of the troop landings at Fedhala, French Morocco which took place in November. Following this service, Bristol returned to the United States and was stationed at Norfolk, Virginia until January 1943.
Bristol returned to the Mediterranean and remained there, except for reporting to the Panama Canal Zone in April 1943, until October. The destroyer participated in the invasion of Sicily in July and August as well as the troop landings at Salerno, Italy in September. In September, Bristol rescued 70 survivors from Rowan, which had been torpedoed. Bristol was on convoy escort duty in October, en-route to Algeria, when she was struck by a torpedo from U-371. The strike broke the destroyer in half, causing steam, power, and communications to fail, and 52 crew members were lost. Survivors were rescued by Trippe and Wainwright and Bristol sank within minutes. Bristol received three battle stars for her service in World War II.
Asbestos Risk on the USS Bristol (DD-453)
Asbestos was used nearly everywhere on Bristol, and most crewmen were exposed to the mineral. Boilers and turbines were insulated with asbestos, as were steam conduits running the full length of the vessel. Bristol’s engineers had the greatest exposure risk, but any exposure can lead to asbestos cancer.
Battle damage can increase the asbestos threat by sending individual asbestos fibers into the air. Bristol sank quickly after being struck, but those few minutes she stayed afloat may have been enough to expose some of her crew to very high concentrations of asbestos-contaminated air. While research suggests that sustained exposure is more dangerous than a brief, highly concentrated incident, any elevated exposure is cause for concern.Sources
Haze Gray & Underway. Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships. DD-453.
NavSource Naval History, USS Bristol (DD-453).