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USS Epperson (DD-719)

The USS Epperson (DD-719) served in the U.S. Navy for over two and a half decades in the mid-20th century, and remained in service with Pakistan until 1999. She was named for Harold Glenn Epperson who won the Medal of Honor during World War II. Epperson was a member of the Gearing class of destroyers.

Construction

Epperson was laid down at Newark, New Jersey by the Federal Shipbuilding and Dry Dock Company in June 1945, launched in December, and commissioned in March 1949 with Commander T. H. W. Conner in command. Carrying a crew of 336, Epperson was 390 feet, six inches long and armed with six five-inch anti-aircraft guns, twelve 40-millimeter anti-aircraft guns, eleven 20-millimeter anti-aircraft guns, and ten 21-inch torpedo tubes. She had a cruising speed of 36.8 knots and a range of 4,500 nautical miles at 20 knots.

Naval History

Epperson began her career with training duties along the east coast, and conducted anti-submarine warfare exercises beginning in December 1949. Her home port became Pearl Harbor in September 1950 and Epperson was then designated as the flagship of Commander, Escort Division 12.

In June 1951, Epperson was deployed for duty off Korea. During this deployment, she conducted patrols and coastal bombardments to support the Korean War. Epperson also participated in anti-submarine exercises off Okinawa and returned to Pearl Harbor in November. The destroyer served a second tour during the Korean War from November 1952 until May 1953, which involved patrols of the Taiwan Strait and bombardment of shore batteries at Wonson Harbor. Epperson was awarded five battle stars for her service in the Korean War.

Epperson served as a patrol vessel in the Marshall Islands in 1954, while thermonuclear weapons tests were underway. In June, Epperson sailed for the Far East, which she did annually from 1954 through 1962. She visited Manus, Australia, New Zealand, and Samoa during deployments in 1958 and 1959. In 1964, Epperson was upgraded with a Fleet Rehabilitation and Modernization overhaul, and the destroyer remained in service with the U.S. Navy until December 1975. Struck from the Navy list in January 1976, she was transferred to Pakistan in April 1977 as Taimur, was decommissioned there in 1999, and sunk as a target in March 2000.

Asbestos Risk on the USS Epperson (DD-719)

Asbestos insulation was employed in many areas on board ships like the USS Epperson and at naval facilities by the U.S. Navy extensively until news about the dangers of the substance was made public in the late 1970’s. When breathed in, tiny asbestos fibers can become stuck in the lungs and can eventually cause mesothelioma, a life-threatening asbestos cancer.

Crewmen working with heavy machinery were more heavily exposed, as were sailors working to repair damage on the ship after an attack. Prolonged exposure to asbestos insulation, and particularly airborne asbestos, can increase the risk of being diagnosed with malignant mesothelioma. Asbestos insulation which becomes damaged or disrupted often becomes "friable". It is easier to breath in asbestos that has been damaged because friable asbestos fibers create a fine dust.

Due to the fact that damaged parts of the ship were almost always full of asbestos fibers, crew and dockyard personnel carrying out repairs and refits were exposed to asbestos at a much higher rate than those assigned to other duties. Ingestion of asbestos can cause a number of dangerous asbestos related diseases. A mesothelioma lawyer can help with options for former sailors who discover they have mesothelioma.

Sources

Sources

Haze Gray & Underway. Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships. DD-719.
(http://www.hazegray.org/danfs/destroy/dd719txt.htm) Retrieved 10 February 2011.

NavSource Naval History. USS Epperson (DD-719).
(http://www.navsource.org/archives/05/719.htm) Retrieved 10 February 2011.

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