The USS Hopewell (DD-681) served in the U.S. Navy for more than two and a half decades in the mid-20th century. She was named for midshipman Pollard Hopewell who served in the War of 1812. Hopewell was a member of the Fletcher class of naval ships.
Hopewell was laid down at San Pedro, California by the Bethlehem Steel Corporation in October 1942, launched in May 1943, and commissioned in September with Commander Corbin Clark Schute in command. Supporting a crew complement of 273, Hopewell was armed with ten 21-inch torpedo tubes, five 5-inch anti-aircraft guns, four 20-millimeter anti-aircraft guns, and four 1.1 inch anti-aircraft guns.
Hopewell was deployed to Hawaii in January 1944, and from there sailed to the Marshall Islands in late January. During this deployment, Hopewell supported the assault at Kwajalein with gunfire and bombarded Roi and Namur Islands at the start of February. Hopewell patrolled the area until late-February, and then set out to New Guinea in March, where she conducted bombardments and anti-submarine escort duty.
Hopewell served during the invasion of Morotai and then commenced operations in the Philippines with the Leyte landings in October. Following the Battle for Leyte Gulf, Hopewell served convoy duty to Humboldt Bay before supporting the troops at the Mindoro invasion in December. Hopewell also operated during the Luzon invasion, where an enemy strike resulted in 17 casualties. Hopewell was repaired at San Francisco from March until May 1945, and then spent the duration of the war in Hawaiian waters.
Hopewell operated in Japanese waters from the surrender until October, and was assigned to the Pacific Reserve Fleet from January 1947 until March 1951. Hopewell was reactivated at San Diego and in June, was deployed to Korea until February 1952 as an aircraft carrier screen for Task Force 77. She served a second tour off Korea from August until March 1953.
Hopewell then alternated training and fleet exercises along the California coast with deployments to the Far East. The destroyer was deployed to Vietnam several times in the 1960s. From the end of August 1966 on, Hopewell served as a gunnery school ship off the west coast, and then was decommissioned in January 1970 and sunk as a training target in February 1972.
Asbestos Risk on the USS Hopewell (DD-681)
Most servicemen serving or working on Hopewell were probably exposed to asbestos. Sailors assigned to engineering or mechanical duties had higher than normal exposure. Large quantities of dust containing asbestos were also found any place where work was performed on naval vessels, like dockyards. Inhaling and swallowing of asbestos is linked to the development of mesothelioma.
Combat damage increases the asbestos risk to a ship’s crew. The attacks on Hopewell likely caused asbestos insulation to tear, releasing tiny asbestos fibers into the surrounding air. As the full dangers of asbestos exposure were unknown at the time Hopewell sailed, her crew had inadequate protection from the mineral. Airborne asbestos fibers are the most dangerous, as they are easily inhaled.Sources
Haze Gray & Underway. Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships. DD-681.
(http://www.hazegray.org/danfs/destroy/dd681txt.htm) Retrieved 3 February 2011.
NavSource Naval History. USS Hopewell (DD-681).
(http://www.navsource.org/archives/05/681.htm) Retrieved 3 February 2011.