The USS Gherardi (DD-637) served in the U.S. Navy for over two decades in the mid-20th century. She was named for Rear Admiral Bancroft Gherardi, who served with the U.S. Navy around the turn of the 20th century. Gherardi was built as a Gleaves-class ship.
Gherardi was laid down in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania at the Philadelphia Navy Yard in September 1941. She was launched in February 1942 and commissioned in September 1942, with Lieutenant Commander J.W. Schmidt at the helm. Gherardi carried a crew of 208 and had a cruising speed of 35 knots. She was armed with four five-inch anti-aircraft guns, six half-inch machine guns, and ten 21-inch torpedo tubes.
Gherardi began her military service with a series of convoy missions to Guantanamo Bay, Port Arthur, and Galveston. In February 1943, she ventured farther afield on a series of convoys to Casablanca.
In the summer of 1943, Gherardi was deployed to the Mediterranean for the invasion of Sicily—her first major action of the war. In August, Gherardi and a sister vessel scored a major hit on a German F-boat loaded with land mines.
After the Sicily mission, Gherardi returned to the US for a series of convoy missions to and from the United Kingdom, followed by more voyages to North Africa. On D-Day (June 1944), Gherardi was part of the fire support brigade for the assault on Utah Beach. Later in the month, she joined a bombardment group to support the assault on Cherbourg, France.
Following the successful invasion of southern France, Gherardi returned to the US, where she was converted to a high-speed minesweeper. Her classification was changed to DMS-30. Following a period of re-training, Gherardi was deployed to the Pacific in March 1945. There, she participated in minesweeping operations and support for the Battle of Okinawa.
As the war ended, Gherardi continued sweeping for mines to clear the waters in the China Sea and near Korea. In December 1945, she returned to the US. She then spent another twenty years on active duty, patrolling the east coast, the Caribbean, and the North Atlantic. She was decommissioned at Charleston in 1955 and was eventually sunk as a target off the coast of Puerto Rico in 1973.
Asbestos Risk on the USS Gherardi (DD-637)
Gherardi used asbestos-containing materials in practically every compartment. The engine and boiler areas on the ship used the material to insulate conduits, to protect boilers, and to fireproof parts of the ship's engines or power plant. Elsewhere, asbestos was added to putty, paint, and even glues. The mineral was remarkably heat and fire resistant. Unfortunately, asbestos is also very hazardous to those that work with or near it.
The more often a person encounters asbestos-containing materials, the more significant their chance of developing mesothelioma. The close quarters and high concentration of asbestos aboard vessels like Gherardi has caused many Navy veterans to become gravely ill later in life. Because asbestos exposure is easily linked to mesothelioma, these sailors often have legal options available to them.Sources
Haze Gray & Underway. Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships. DD-637.
NavSource Naval History, USS Gherardi (DD-637).