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USS Herndon (DD-638)

The USS Herndon (DD-638) served in the U.S. Navy for approximately four years during the mid-20th century. She was named for William Lewis Herndon, who served with the U.S. Navy during the 19th century. Herndon was built as a Gleaves-class ship.


Herndon was laid down in Norfolk, Virginia at the Norfolk Navy Yard in August 1941. She was launched in February 1942 and commissioned in December 1942, with Commander Granville A. Moore at the helm. Herndon 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.

Naval History

Herndon began her military service escorting a convoy from New York to Casablanca. She then traveled to Algiers to prepare for the Sicilian campaign. In July 1943, Herndon was active in the military operations against southern Europe, providing fire support and anti-submarine patrols.

In August, Herndon left the Mediterranean for a stint of trans-Atlantic convoy duty—but she was back in southern Europe in time for D-Day. On June 6, 1944, Herndon was stationed near Omaha Beach as part of “Baldheaded Row,” the line in front of the first assault waves.

Following the initial invasion, Herndon spent another month in the area, providing fire support and screening troop ships. Throughout the remainder of 1944 and the start of 1945, Herndon conducted battle exercises, escorted convoys, and escorted President Roosevelt on part of his voyage to Yalta.

In April 1945, Herndon was sent to the Pacific, where she was used as a plane guard and escort vessel in the regions of Eniwetok, Guam, and Saipan. Following the signing of the surrender in September, Herndon was part of the fleet sent to the Chinese coast to help keep the peace. It was here that the ship had a moment of glory: Vice Admiral Kanako and his staff boarded Herndon to sign the unconditional surrender of all Japanese vessels in the Tsingtao area.

In December 1945, Herndon carried veterans back to the US as part of Operation Magic Carpet. She arrived at Charleston in January 1946 and was decommissioned and placed on reserve several months later. She was eventually sunk as a target off the coast of Florida in 1973.

Asbestos Risk on the USS Herndon (DD-638)

Herndon used asbestos in almost every compartment, from her mess to the sleeping quarters. It was deployed as insulation, pipe covering, and fireproofing. The highest concentration of asbestos was found in the engineering and mechanical areas of the vessel, where it was used to protect steam boilers, pumps, and engines.

An exposed crewman's risk of illness went up if his job involved contact with frayed or damaged asbestos-containing material. Asbestos products that become worn or frayed often become “friable". Friable simply means the tiny fibers of asbestos separate from the body of material and can become airborne, where they can easily be breathed in or swallowed. Exposure to such fibers has been conclusively linked to the development of mesothelioma later in life.



Haze Gray & Underway. Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships. DD-638. ( Retrieved 29 January 2011.

NavSource Naval History, USS Herndon (DD-638).
( Retrieved 29 January 2011.

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