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USS Converse (DD-509)

The USS Converse (DD-509) was a Fletcher-class destroyer in the U.S. Navy and the second ship named in honor of George A. Converse (1844-1909).

Construction

Built in Bath, Maine, by the Bath Iron Works Corporation, she was launched in August 1942, and commissioned in November under the command of Commander D. C. E. Hamberger.

Naval History

Converse arrived at New Caledonia in May 1943, where she escorted ships between Espiritu and Guadalcanal. At Port Purvis she joined Destroyer Squadron 23 and supplied protection for amphibious landings on Bougainville and shelled airfields at Buka and Bonis and enemy positions in the Shortlands. Her force intercepted Japanese cruisers and destroyers and prevented an attack on transports at Bougainville during the Battle of Empress Augusta Bay. By battle’s end, her squadron sank three enemy ships and emerged unscathed. During escorting duty, Converse came under heavy attack from Japanese bombers which she fought off but sustained enough damage to require repairs at Sydney, Australia.

In 1944, Converse escorted the Fast Carrier Task Force during air strikes on the Palaus, landings at Hollandia, and assaults on Truk, Satawan, and Ponape. Converse participated in the invasion of Saipan and continued escort duties throughout the Battle of the Philippine Sea. After joining forces in the bombardment of Guam and Rota, Converse steamed to Mare Island Naval Shipyard, CA, for an overhaul. After returning to action, she came under attack by Japanese suicide planes and fought them off as well as rescuing 266 survivors of LST-749. Following an overhaul in Subic Bay, Converse joined the invasions of Panay and Negros. She spent the remaining months of the war participating in the planned invasion of Japan. Operating off Okinawa on radar picket duty, she fought off kamikaze attacks.

In October 1945, Converse arrived at Washington, DC, where her squadron participated in the ceremonial award of the Presidential Unit Citation for service in the Solomons. In April 1946, after an overhaul at Brooklyn, Converse was decommissioned and placed in reserve at Charleston, SC.

In July 1959, Converse was transferred to Spain under the Mutual Assistance Program to Spain and renamed Almirante Valdés (D23). Converse was stricken from the Naval Vessel Register 17 November 1986 and scrapped in 1988. In the course of her career she earned a Presidential Unit Citation and 11 battle stars for her service in World War II.

Asbestos Risk on the USS Converse (DD-509)

Inhaling or swallowing of asbestos fibers is strongly linked to the development of mesothelioma. The engine and power compartments aboard Converse utilized large quantities of asbestos products to insulate conduits, to fireproof boilers, and to cover elements of the ship's motors and turbines. Asbestos could be found in most other sections of the ship as well, because insulation made from asbestos covered steam pipes running through the entire ship. This means that all sailors that served aboard Converse have some risk of developing asbestos cancer.

Individuals who worked regularly with frayed or damaged asbestos fibers over an extended period of time have a much higher risk of developing asbestos than workers who experienced lower levels of exposure over the same amount of time, or a higher level of exposure only briefly. Navy veterans that performed damage control and firefighting may have the greatest risk.

Sources

Sources

Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships
http://www.history.navy.mil/danfs/c13/converse-ii.htm

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