The USS Erben (DD-631) served in the U.S. Navy for approximately three years a decade in the mid-20th century. She was named for Henry Erben, who served with the U.S. Navy during the Civil War. Erben was built as a Fletcher-class ship.
Erben was laid down in Bath, Maine by Bath Iron Works in October 1942. She was launched in March 1943 and commissioned in May 1943, with Commander J.H. Nevins, Jr. at the helm. Erben carried a crew of 273 and had a cruising speed of 38 knots. She was armed with five five-inch anti-aircraft guns, four one and one-tenth-inch anti-aircraft guns, four 20-millimeter anti-aircraft guns, and ten 21-inch torpedo tubes.
Erben began her military duties in the Pacific. Early involvement in the war effort included participation in pre-invasion attacks on Gilbert and the strikes on the Marshalls. At the start of 1944, Erbens again saw action when she participated in the bombardments of Taroa and Wotje. Later that spring, she escorted troops to Cape Torokina and assisted in the Hollandia operation. Over the summer, she was active at Eniwotek and the Battle of the Philippine Sea. In October, she guarded Humboldt Bay during the Battle for Leyte Gulf before retiring to the US for an overhaul.
March 1945 saw Erben back in action, just in time to participate in strikes on Kyushu and Okinawa, where she was instrumental in driving off kamikaze planes. In July and August, she participated in bombardments of the Japanese coast, sinking two enemy luggers. In October, she carried a load of passengers from Okinawa home to Long Beach, where she herself was decommissioned and later placed on reserve.
In 1951 Erben was recommissioned. She again sailed to the Pacific, where she bombarded shore targets near Songjin-Chongjin and participated in anti-sub patrols. Erben spent several more years in the Pacific, operating with ships of the Royal Navy and serving on the Taiwan Patrol. She finally returned to the US for decommissioning in 1958. Erben was transferred to South Korea in 1963, where she was renamed Chung Mu. In the 1980s, she served as a stationary training vessel, and she has since been broken up and sold for scrap.
Asbestos Risk on the USS Erben (DD-631)
Most sailors that sailed or worked on the USS Erben were likely to have been exposed to asbestos-containing materials while on board. Sailors handling engineering equipment were more heavily exposed, as were crew members working on damage control efforts. On board naval vessels like the Erben, asbestos-based materials could be found in many areas of the ship.
The main work performed in shipyards involved the repair and refurbishment of ships. In many cases, insulation and other asbestos parts were cut, sawed and sanded causing asbestos debris to enter the air. As a result, many workers performing this work were exposed to large quantities of asbestos while on the job. The families of dock workers that had never been to the yard were also exposed to asbestos fiber because it would stick to clothing of the workers and be brought home at the end of the day. Asbestos dust breathed in or swallowed damages the thin membrane known as the mesothelium and can result in malignant mesothelioma.
Working in proximity to damaged asbestos or damaged machinery exposed Erben's sailors and repair workers to dangerous levels of asbestos. Because asbestos is currently the primary cause of mesothelioma and asbestos-related conditions, there are often legal options for mesothelioma victims who have developed these conditions. A mesothelioma lawyer can help explain what they are.Sources
Haze Gray & Underway. Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships. DD-631.
(http://www.hazegray.org/danfs/destroy/dd631txt.htm) Retrieved 29 January 2011.
(http://www.navsource.org/archives/05/631.htm) Retrieved 29 January 2011.