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USS Duncan (DD-874)

The USS Duncan (DD-874) was a Gearing-class destroyer in the U.S. Navy and the third ship named in honor of Captain Silas Duncan USN (1788-1834).


Built at Orange, Texas, by the Consolidated Steel Corporation in May 1944, she was launched in October and commissioned February 1945, with Commander P. D. Williams in command.

Naval History

Immediately following her shakedown, Duncan was converted to a radar picket destroyer and sailed from Norfolk, Virginia, to the Pacific where she served as plane guard during the assault of Wake Island. With the 7th Fleet, Duncan sailed to Okinawa and then patrolled the waters off China and Korea during the landing at Tsingtao, Taku. Operating out of San Diego, California, Duncan remained in a state of readiness for the following year until she departed, in May 1947, for the Far East where she visited China and Japan. Duncan continued exercises with both aircraft and submarines following her return stateside. In March 1948, an explosion on board took the lives of 2 men and injured 14. Duncan was repaired at Long Beach, California, before she trained with the fleet and returned to the Pacific at which time she was reclassified DDR-874 in March of 1949. In November 1950, Duncan sailed to Korean waters and served three tours with the 7th Fleet during the Korean War. She guarded carriers, escorted battleships, provided gunfire support for minesweepers and patrolled the waters disrupting communications between enemy ships and fishing craft.

Following the conflict, Duncan remained in the Pacific on training exercises and duties in the Far East. After maintenance, she made stops in Japan, Australia, the Philippines, Taiwan, and Hong Kong and numerous islands throughout the Pacific. In 1960-1961, Duncan had a major overhaul and was upgraded through the Fleet Rehabilitation and Modernization (FRAM) program at the Long Beach Naval Shipyard.

Duncan saw action in the Vietnam War where she saw duty as plane guard for carriers on Yankee Station in the Gulf of Tonkin. She also participated in search and rescue missions, provided gunfire support, and participated in Operation Sea Dragon and Operation Market Time.

Duncan was decommissioned in January 1971, and struck from the Naval Vessel Register on 1 February 1974. She was sunk as a target off California on 31 July 1980. Duncan received seven battle stars for service in the Korean War.

Asbestos Risk on the USS Duncan (DD-874)

Workplaces began employing asbestos fibers late in the 19th century because it was extraordinarily useful for construction and industrial applications. Oceangoing craft like Duncan have utilized asbestos-containing materials as an insulating material for their engineering applications since the early 1900’s. The U.S. Navy employed asbestos widely up until around 1979 as a heat and electrical insulator and for fireproofing aboard all its ships, exposing crew and dockyard workers to a high risk of developing mesothelioma.

Though most crewmen on a vessel were exposed to asbestos to at least some extent, those laboring with the ship's heavy equipment were exposed constantly. The incidence of malignant mesothelioma is correlated strongly with the overall quantity of exposure to asbestos and the total time spent exposed. Because asbestos is a mineral fiber, when something damages it, each tiny splinter of material can peel off and become friable. Asbestos insulation that has become friable is more hazardous because the fibers become airborne where they can be inhaled or ingested.

Working with friable asbestos or damaged ship components exposed Duncan's personnel and dockyard workers to much more dangerous quantities of asbestos than the levels dealt with on a routine basis. The legal system offers options for servicemen diagnosed with mesothelioma.



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