The USS Gurke (DD-783) remained on the Navy list for over three decades in the mid-20th century. She was named for Marine Corps Private Henry Gurke who was killed at the Battle of Bougainville during the Second World War. Gurke was a member of the Gearing class of destroyers.
Gurke was laid down at Seattle, Washington by the Todd Pacific Shipyards Corporation in July 1944, launched in February 1945, and commissioned in May with Commander Kenneth Loveland in command. Armed with ten 21-inch torpedo tubes, eleven 20-millimeter anti-aircraft guns, six five-inch anti-aircraft guns, and twelve 40-millimeter anti-aircraft guns, Gurke carried a crew of 336 and was 390 feet, six inches in length.
Gurke arrived at Pearl Harbor in September 1945 and then served during the occupation of Japan and islands formerly held by the former enemy. The destroyer returned to San Diego in February 1946 and remained there until September 1947. Gurke then alternated between local operations, two cruises to the western Pacific, and a journey to Alaska in 1948, until being deployed as an aircraft carrier screen during the Korean War in August 1950.
Gurke shared a Navy Unit Commendation with Task Element 90.62 for operations at the Inchon invasion. She also conducted various bombardments and patrols, including of the Formosa Straits. Gurke returned to the United States twice during the conflict, but remained on patrol following the end of the war, and until 1960, she was deployed on six to eight month deployments at a time to the Far East. Peacetime routines at home were conducted in between.
Gurke took part in nuclear tests off Christmas Island in June 1962, and then underwent an FRAM upgrade at the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard in 1963 and 1964. From May to October, the destroyer was based at San Diego, and then sailed to the South China Sea in 1965. In late-January, Gurke was called to Vietnam, and then returned home in May 1966. Gurke was back in the Far East in late-June and was assigned to search and rescue duty in the Gulf of Tonkin, and also refueled helicopters.
Gurke arrived at San Diego in November and resumed operations along the west coast. Struck from the Navy list in January 1976, Gurke was transferred to Greece in 1977 as Tombazis and was struck by the Greek Navy in 1997.
Asbestos Risk on the USS Gurke (DD-783)
Crewmembers assigned to repairing and refitting Gurke were most likely to be heavily exposed to asbestos. This is because handling existing asbestos materials can cause individual fibers to shake free into the air, where they are easily inhaled. Such fibers can infiltrate the lining that surrounds the lungs, causing tissue damage and, eventually, mesothelioma.
Other dangerous areas aboard Gurke included the engine room, where asbestos insulation was used on boilers and turbines. Steam pipes throughout the ship often employed asbestos pipe covering, and many gaskets were made with the mineral. Any asbestos exposure can have a long-term impact on health. There are often legal remedies available to those suffering from asbestos-related ailments.Sources
Haze Gray & Underway. Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships. DD-783
(http://www.hazegray.org/danfs/destroy/dd783txt.htm) Retrieved 16 February 2011.
NavSource Naval History. USS Gurke (DD-783)
(http://www.navsource.org/archives/05/783.htm) Retrieved 16 February 2011.