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USS Ernest G. Small (DD-838)

The USS Ernest G. Small was a Gearing-class destroyer in service with the United States from the end of World War II through Vietnam, and with the Taiwanese Navy until the end of the 20th century. She was named for Rear Admiral Ernest Small, who served in the Pacific during World War II.


Ernest G. Small was built at the Bath Iron Works Shipyard in Bath, Maine and launched in June 1945. She was commissioned two months later under the command of Commander T.D. McGrath. She was laid down as a Gearing-class destroyer.

The Gearing-class destroyers were a second-generation upgrade of the previous Sumner and Fletcher-classes. Based on the same general design, they were larger, more heavily armed, faster and had a much greater ranger than their predecessors, the Sumner and Fletcher-type destroyers. Ernest G. Small measured 390 feet in length, 41 feet in the beam and displaced over 3400 tons, fully loaded. Two General Electric steam turbines powered the vessel. Crew compliment consisted of 336 officers and seamen.

Naval History

Following her shakedown cruise in the Caribbean, Ernest G. Small continued in service in the Atlantic, ranging from the Mediterranean to the coast of South America. In April 1947, Ernest G. Small was driven aground in a squall off the coast of Rhode Island. Repairs were made at the Boston Naval Shipyard.

When hostilities broke out on the Korean peninsula in 1950, she was deployed to the 7th Fleet. In her second combat tour, she suffered significant battle damage. During the bombardment of Hungham off the coast of Korea in October 1951, Small struck a mine which severely damaged her bow, causing it to break off four days later. The bow was replaced at Long Beach the following year.

Between 1952 and 1960, Ernest G. Small ranged the Pacific from Alaska to Australia, participating in training exercises and joint maneuvers with other Pacific Rim naval units. The destroyer underwent a FRAM I (Fleet Rehabilitation And Modernization) overhaul at the San Francisco Naval Shipyard during a twelve-month period that commenced in December 1960. Among other things, this overhaul consisted of upgrades to electronics, radar, weapons systems and crew quarters.

The destroyer was sold to the Taiwanese Navy in April of 1971. She continued in service as the ROCS Fu Yang until retired in December 1999. She was scuttled as a practice target in October 2003.

Asbestos Risk on the USS Ernest G. Small (DD-838)

As asbestos was used in hundreds of applications, it could be found in nearly every compartment aboard Ernest G. Small. The engineering and power rooms of Ernest G. Small employed asbestos to insulate conduits and to fireproof boilers and parts of the ship's engines and steam turbines. The use of asbestos insulation and pipe covering was so widespread that even areas of the ship not used for machinery often contained asbestos.

Damaged and worn asbestos products are particularly dangerous to those that handle them. The heavy damage to Small’s bow likely caused much of the asbestos in that area to become friable, releasing individual fibers into the surrounding air. When inhaled, such fibers become lodged in the mesothelium, a thin layer of cells that buffers internal organs. There, they can cause scarring, tissue damage, and sometimes, mesothelioma.



Destroyer History Foundation. "Gearing Class"

Mooney, James. Dictionary of American Fighting Ships. (Washington DC; Department of the Navy, 1991).

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