The USS Gatling (DD-671) was commissioned by the U.S. Navy for more than two and a half decades in the middle of the 20th century. She was named for Richard Jordan Gatling, an inventor of cotton planting machines and a multi-barreled machine gun during the Civil War. Gatling was laid down as a Fletcher-class naval ship.
Gatling was laid down at Kearny, New Jersey by the Federal Shipbuilding and Dry Dock Company in March 1943, launched in June, and commissioned in August with Lieutenant Commander Alvin H. Richardson in command. A 376 foot, five inch long vessel, Gatling was armed with five 5-inch anti-aircraft guns, four 20-millimeter anti-aircraft guns, four 1.1 inch anti-aircraft guns, and ten 21-inch torpedo tubes.
Gatling conducted crew training exercises at Norfolk, Virginia before escorting aircraft carrier Langley to Trinidad in November 1943. The destroyer then escorted Intrepid from Norfolk to San Francisco, and after sailing to Pearl Harbor, was deployed to the Marshall Islands in January 1944 with Task Force 58. She then operated as a protective guard for aircraft carriers during the Truk strikes, raids on the Mariana Islands, and strikes on New Guinea in April. Gatling also supported troop landings at Aitape and Humboldt Bay, and in July downed six Japanese planes during the Battle of the Philippine Sea.
In September, Gatling followed carriers into the Philippines for assaults on Formosa, Luzon, and the Visayas, and rescued 300 crew members of Princeton during the Battle of the Sibuyan Sea in October. Gatling continued on in the Philippines until the carrier attacks on Japan itself in February 1945, which included strikes on Iwo Jima, Okinawa, and Tokyo. She returned to the United States for repairs in April and sailed back to Japan in August, served during the occupation, and joined the Atlantic Reserve Fleet in July 1946.
Re-commissioned in June 1951, Gatling was prepared for duty and served in Europe and the Caribbean before being deployed to the Far East. Gatling returned home in the summer of 1953 and alternated between service in the Mediterranean, Cuba, the Caribbean, and along the east coast until being decommissioned in May 1960. She was struck from the Navy list in December 1974 and sold for scrap to the Union Minerals & Alloys Corporation in February 1977.
Asbestos Risk on the USS Gatling (DD-671)
Most sailors assigned to or working on Gatling were likely exposed to asbestos-containing materials to some degree. Those laboring on the ship's heavy equipment had the highest exposure. Asbestos-based materials could be found in practically every compartment.
Dockyard workers were also at considerable risk of asbestos exposure. Repairing battle damage required removing and replacing friable asbestos parts. That sort of work was very dangerous, as such parts released clouds of tiny asbestos fibers when handled. Because the Gatling served before the full risks of asbestos exposure were known, repair work was often performed without adequate protection. Inhaling asbestos fibers can cause serious and often fatal illnesses like mesothelioma later in life.Sources
Haze Gray & Underway. Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships. DD-671.
NavSource Naval History. USS Gatling (DD-671).