USS Clemson (DD-186) was the lead ship in the Clemson-class of destroyers, which were built to serve in the US Navy during World War II. She was the only naval vessel to be named in honor of Midshipman Henry A. Clemson, who was lost at sea when USS Sommers capsized on December 8, 1846.
Clemson, which was sponsored by Miss M.C. Daniels, was launched by Newport News Shipbuilding & Dry Dock Company in Newport News, Virginia on September 5, 1918. Lieutenant Commander G.C. Dichman took command of Clemson on December 29, 1919.
Following her commissioning, Clemson cruised the east coast as well as in Cuban waters until June 13, 1920, at which time she was placed in reserve with 50% complement. She spent time here as well as at Charleston, South Carolina and at the Boston Navy Yards before sailing to Philadelphia Navy Yards, which is where she was decommissioned on June 30, 1922.
On November 15, 1939, Clemson was reclassified AVP-17 and converted into a small aircraft tender. She was then recommissioned on July 12, 1940 before being reclassified once again as AVD-4 on August 18. At that time, Clemson reported to Commander, Aircraft, Scouting Force, Atlantic Fleet at Norfolk, Virginia. She then tended patrol lanes in the Caribbean until November 1941. Afterward, Clemson sailed south to Recife, Brazil, where she remained until January of the following year. Clemson then shuttled back and forth between Brazil and the Galapagos Islands whenever her services where needed.
On May 2, 1943, Clemson returned to Norfolk before moving on to Charleston, where she was converted back into a destroyer. She was not reclassified as DD-186, however, until December 1 of that year. Shortly after her conversion, Clemson made eight patrols with the American hunter-killer group, which had been built around USS Bogue. The Bogue group managed to sink eight German submarines, with Clemson sharing credit for the sinking of U-172. The group ultimately earned the Presidential Unit Citation for its successes.
In early 1944, Clemson went through an overhaul, after which she escorted a convoy back and forth to Casablanca. Afterward, she underwent another conversion as she was converted into a high speed transport. Clemson was then reclassified as APD-31 in March 1944, after which she embarked Underwater Demolition Team 6. In January 1945, Clemson drove off a Japanese air attack while entering Lingayen Gulf.
On July 17, Clemson was redesignated as DD-186. With World War II coming to an end while she was still undergoing conversion, Clemson was decommissioned on October 12, 1945. She was later sold on November 21, 1946, though her bell still remains in Clemson, South Carolina. Clemson received nine battle stars for her service during World War II.
Asbestos Risk on the USS Clemson (DD-186)
The installation of asbestos fireproofing in the construction of oceangoing ships was required by the US Congress in the early 1930s, after a deadly fire on a cruise ship resulted in great loss of life. Navy ships like Clemson utilized asbestos in large quantities around engines and engine compartments, and for fireproofing throughout the vessel. When an asbestos-based product is worn or damaged it can become "friable", meaning that fibers can be broken off and escape into the atmosphere, and then can be inhaled or ingested by naval personnel and shipfitters, increasing the chances of contracting mesothelioma.
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Clemson. Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships. Department of the Navy – Naval Historical Center. (http://history.navy.mil/danfs/c10/clemson.htm) Retrieved 24 December 2010