The USS Cole (DD-155) served in the US Navy for over two-and-a-half decades in the early 20th century, and received the Presidential Unit Citation and three battle stars for her service in World War II. She was named for Edward Ball Cole who served with the United States Marine Corps during World War I. Cole was built as a vessel of the Wickes class.
Cole was laid down in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania by the William Cramp & Sons Ship & Engine Building Company in June 1918, launched in January 1919, and commissioned in June with Commander I.F. Dortch in command. Carrying a crew of 103, Cole was 314 feet, five inches long and was armed with four 4-inch rapid-fire guns, two anti-aircraft guns, and twelve 21-inch torpedo tubes.
Cole joined United States Naval Forces near Turkey in June 1919, and served in the Middle East for the next year. In June 1920, Cole arrived in New York and operated on the east coast and in the Caribbean. She was out of commission in Philadelphia from July 1922 until May 1930, and then operated with the Scouting Fleet in the Atlantic. Cole was assigned to the rotating reserve squadron at Norfolk Navy Yard in August 1934, and joined the Scouting Force in the Pacific in November. In May 1936, Cole began operation as a Naval Reserve training ship, and was decommissioned once again at Philadelphia Navy Yard in January 1937.
Cole was assigned to the Neutrality Patrol in the Atlantic when re-commissioned in October 1939. She conducted several escort and patrol missions and landed troops for the invasion of North Africa in November 1942, for which she earned the Presidential Unit Citation. In December, Cole returned to Boston, Massachusetts and was once again assigned to escort duty, before being sent to the Mediterranean in May 1943.
During this deployment, Cole conducted patrol and escort duty, participated in the invasion of Sicily in July 1943, and guarded transports as the assault on Salerno took place in September. Cole returned to duty as a convoy escort on the east coast of the United States in December, and in December 1944, served as a plane guard for carriers out of Quonset Point, Rhode Island. She was reclassified as AG-116 in June 1945, then decommissioned in November 1946 and sold for scrap in October 1947.
Asbestos Risk on the USS Cole (DD-155)
The installation of asbestos fireproofing in the construction of marine vessels was mandated by law in the US in the early 1930s, after a deadly fire on a cruise ship killed more than 100 people. Cole, like most Navy ships at the time, made use of asbestos in great quantities, particularly in ship's boilers and engine spaces, and for insulation in the other sections of the ship. When an asbestos-based product is worn or damaged it becomes "friable", which means that the fibers can break off and escape into the atmosphere, where they are breathed in by crewmen and dockworkers, possibly causing mesothelioma.
At the present time, medicine has not found a cure for mesothelioma, but there are a number of supportive approaches which enhance survival time and make patients more comfortable, like radiation for mesothelioma.
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Haze Gray & Underway. Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships. DD-155. (http://www.hazegray.org/danfs/destroy/dd155txt.htm) Retrieved 24 December 2010.
NavSource Naval History, USS Cole (DD-155).
(http://www.navsource.org/archives/05/155.htm) Retrieved 24 December 2010.