The USS John W. Weeks (DD-701) served in the U.S. Navy for over two and a half decades in the mid-20th century. She was named for Rear Admiral John Wingate Weeks who served as a United States Senator and as Secretary of War. John W. Weeks was a member of the Allen M. Sumner class of naval destroyers.
John W. Weeks was laid down at Kearny, New Jersey by the Federal Shipbuilding and Dry Dock Company in January 1944, launched in May, and commissioned in July with Commander Robert A. Theobald, Jr., in command. Carrying a crew of 336, John W. Weeks was armed with ten 21-inch torpedo tubes, six five-inch anti-aircraft guns, twelve 40-millimeter anti-aircraft guns, and eleven 20-millimeter anti-aircraft guns.
John W. Weeks sailed from New York on escort duty and, after passing through Pearl Harbor and Eniwetok, joined the 3rd Fleet at Ulithi in December 1944. In January 1945, John W. Weeks departed with Fast Carrier Task Force 38 to begin operations in the Philippines. The destroyer participated in the Luzon Invasion and protected the force at Lingayen Gulf and in the South China Sea.
John W. Weeks served with the aircraft carriers during strikes on Tokyo in February and then supported Marines fighting on Iwo Jima. She also participated in pre-invasion bombardment activities at Okinawa and, during the D-day invasion in April, defended the invading troops there as well. John W. Weeks was then assigned to various operations off Tokyo Bay, including radar picket duty, shore bombardment, anti-shipping sweeps, and rescue missions. Occupation duty followed the end of the war, during which John W. Weeks served as an escort until late-December.
John W. Weeks was inactivated in April 1946, but operated as a naval training vessel from May 1947 until mid-1949 out of Norfolk, Virginia. Briefly decommissioned in 1950, John W. Weeks was then deployed to Europe before reporting to the Middle East in 1956. In 1960, John W. Weeks resumed training duties in the Caribbean and off New England. John W. Weeks sailed to the Mediterranean and Middle East on various occasions, and served on the Gemini 5 recovery team in the summer of 1965. In 1966, the destroyer was used as a school ship at Key West, Florida, and then was assigned to anti-submarine duties in the Atlantic, as well as the South Atlantic and Indian Oceans. John W. Weeks was decommissioned and struck from the Navy list, then sunk of Virginia, in 1970.
Asbestos Risk on the USS John W. Weeks (DD-701)
The engine and power rooms of Navy ships like the USS John W. Weeks, contained fairly large amounts of asbestos insulation and other asbestos products because the equipment generated a large amount of heat. The engine and power rooms aboard John W. Weeks used asbestos to insulate steam pipes, to cover ship's boilers, and to fireproof parts of the ship's motors and power generating equipment.
As materials contaminated with asbestos were used in so many places, essentially all crewmen ran the risk of asbestos exposure at some point during their career. Those working with the ship's heavy equipment had a higher level of regular exposure, however. When asbestos-contaminated material is broken or torn, the individual asbestos fibers become "friable" and can become airborne, where they can be ingested or inhaled.
The development of mesothelioma, a serious asbestos cancer, is strongly correlated with the overall level of exposure. When breathed in or swallowed, tiny asbestos particles become stuck in the lungs and may, over time, cause the development of an asbestos disease.Sources
Haze Gray & Underway. Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships. DD-701.
(http://www.hazegray.org/danfs/destroy/dd701txt.htm) Retrieved 7 February 2011.
NavSource Naval History. USS John W. Weeks (DD-701).
(http://www.navsource.org/archives/05/701.htm) Retrieved 7 February 2011.