The USS Knapp (DD-653) was commissioned by the U.S. Navy for nearly a decade and a half during the mid-20th century. She was named for Vice Admiral Harry Shepard Knapp who served in the Spanish-American War and World War I. Knapp was laid down as a Fletcher-class naval destroyer.
Knapp was laid down at Bath, Maine by Bath Iron Works in March 1943, launched in July, and commissioned in September with Commander Frank Virden in command. Carrying a crew of 273, Knapp was armed with ten 21-inch torpedo tubes, five 5-inch anti-aircraft guns, four 1.1 inch anti-aircraft guns, and four 20-millimeter anti-aircraft guns.
Knapp arrived at Pearl Harbor in late-December 1943 and began her wartime service with Task Force 58 in the Marshall Islands, where she aided in the invasion in January and February 1944 and bombarded Kwajalein Island. The destroyer continued on as an aircraft carrier screen for the Truk and Marianas raids, and during the capture of Emirau Island in March. In April, Knapp served during the Hollandia invasion, the Saipan operations in May, and then helped the fleet win the Battle of the Philippine Sea.
Knapp served with aircraft carriers Langley, Lexington, Essex, and Princeton for the operations in the Palaus. She provided anti-aircraft fire at Okinawa and Formasa in October, and defended the carriers at the Battle of Surigao Strait in the Leyte Gulf. Knapp escorted Ticonderoga following an air attack during the Lingayen invasion in January 1945. Overhauled on the west coast between February and April, Knapp served radar picket duty at Okinawa in May, and then conducted raids on Japan until the fighting ended in August. Knapp continued serving during the occupation and was in reserve at Charleston, South Carolina from July 1946 to May 1951.
Knapp operated out of Newport, Rhode Island with the Atlantic Fleet, and spent much of 1952 on duty in the Mediterranean. The destroyer embarked on a world cruise with Destroyer Division 182 in 1953, which was interrupted by patrol duty off Korea, and ended at Fall River, Massachusetts in March 1954. Knapp was deployed to the western Pacific a couple of more times, and was decommissioned in March 1957 at Long Beach, California. She was sold for scrap in August 1973, but later rebuilt as an exhibit in the Columbia River Maritime Museum in Astoria, Oregon.
Asbestos Risk on the USS Knapp (DD-653)
Insulation made from asbestos has been widely employed in factory and industrial workplaces since the late 19th century. Because asbestos is heat and fire resistant it became the primary means of fireproofing navy vessels starting in the 1930s. It was frequently wrapped around the parts on a naval vessel that generated heat such as turbines and engines as well as pipes that ran throughout the entire ship.
Serving aboard the USS Knapp exposed many of the crew to asbestos. Before the 1970’s, the dangers of asbestos were little known and protective gear was rarely worn to prevent the inhalation of asbestos fibers. Members of the crew who worked in the engineering compartment, worked with machinery, or worked as firefighters had a higher chance of sustaining asbestos exposure on the job. Mesothelioma, a type of asbestos cancer often takes decades to develop after initial exposure occurred.
Individuals, including those stationed or working on the USS Knapp, whose assignments resulted in more frequent exposure to damaged asbestos, have an increased chance of being diagnosed with this serious disease later in life.Sources
Haze Gray & Underway. Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships. DD-653.
(http://www.hazegray.org/danfs/destroy/dd653txt.htm) Retrieved 1 February 2011.
NavSource Naval History. USS Knapp (DD-653).
(http://www.navsource.org/archives/05/653.htm) Retrieved 1 February 2011.