The USS Decatur (DD-936) remained on the Navy list for over three decades in the mid-to-late-20th century, but continued to operate until the early 21st century. She was named for Commodore Stephen Decatur who served in the Tripolitan War and in the War of 1812. Decatur was commissioned as a member of the Forrest Sherman class of destroyers.
Decatur was laid down at Quincy, Massachusetts by the Bethlehem Steel Corporation in September 1954, launched in December 1955, and commissioned in December 1956 with Commander John J. Skahill in command. Supporting a crew complement of 324, Decatur was 418 feet, six inches long and armed with four three-inch rapid fire guns, two anti-submarine mortars, four 21-inch torpedo tubes, and six 12.75-inch anti-submarine torpedo tubes.
Decatur departed Newport, Rhode Island to participate in Operation Strikeback in September 1957, with NATO forces. During this deployment, Decatur called at ports in Scotland, and returned to Newport in late-October. The destroyer operated locally until February 1958 and then was deployed with the 6th Fleet to the Mediterranean until late-August.
Decatur conducted operations off the east coast until serving in the Mediterranean again from August 1959 to February 1960. Upon her return to the Atlantic, Decatur participated in anti-submarine exercises and a midshipman training cruise from March to September. Decatur then traveled up to the Arctic Circle, which was followed by a voyage to the Mediterranean and then the Arabian Sea and the Indian Ocean. She then resumed operations in the Mediterranean with the 6th Fleet, and arrived back at Newport in mid-December.
Decatur was decommissioned from June 1965 to April 1967, and was reclassified as guided missile destroyer DDG-31 during this timeframe. The destroyer operated until being decommissioned again in June 1983, and was struck from the Navy list in March 1988. Decatur underwent a conversion to a Self Defense Test Ship from March 1992 to October 1994 when she was towed to Point Hueneme, California. She was then designated as EDDG 31 by the NSWC and continued this service until December 2003. Towed to Pearl Harbor, Decatur was sunk during aircraft and submarine training exercises in July 2004.
Asbestos Risk on the USS Decatur (DD-936)
It was highly probable that members of the USS Decatur’s crew were exposed to asbestos-containing materials while serving on board the ship. Crewmen handling ship's machinery were more likely to be heavily exposed, as were sailors serving in damage control missions. Aboard the Decatur asbestos insulation was employed in almost all compartments, both in insulation and on steam pipes. Doctors have recognized a direct causal link between the inhalation of asbestos fibers and the development of malignant mesothelioma.
An exposed person's probability of developing mesothelioma goes up considerably if he or she worked regularly with damaged asbestos fibers. Dealing with damaged asbestos or damaged machinery exposed Decatur's crew and civilian shipyard workers to much higher quantities of asbestos than the levels encountered in the course of normal military duty. Because exposure to asbestos is currently the only known source of mesothelioma and asbestos-related conditions, there are usually legal options available to those who have developed these diseases.Sources
Haze Gray & Underway. Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships. DD-936.
(http://www.hazegray.org/danfs/destroy/dd936txt.htm) Retrieved 24 February 2011.
NavSource Naval History. Decatur (DD-936).
(http://www.navsource.org/archives/05/936.htm) Retrieved 24 February 2011.