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USS Leary (DD-158)

The USS Leary (DD-158) served in the U.S. Navy for two and a half decades during the early 20th century, and received one battle star for her service in World War II. She was named for Lieutenant Clarence Frederick Leary who served with the Naval Reserve in World War I. Leary was built as a Wickes-class ship.


Leary was laid down in Camden, New Jersey by the New York Shipbuilding Corporation in March 1918, launched in December, and commissioned in December 1919 with Commander F.C. Martin in command. Carrying a crew of 101, Leary had a cruising speed of 35 knots and was armed with four 4-inch rapid-fire guns, two anti-aircraft guns, and twelve 21-inch torpedo tubes.

Naval History

Leary conducted training in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and joined the Battle Fleet in the Pacific in January 1921. In February, Leary operated off of Peru and returned to the Caribbean in June, and then was decommissioned at Philadelphia Navy Yard in June 1922. Leary joined the Atlantic Fleet in Newport, Rhode Island when reactivated in May 1930, and alternated between service in the Atlantic and with the Pacific Fleet.

Leary participated in reserve training after 1935, and was assigned to anti-submarine patrol in September 1939 off of New England. In September 1941, Leary joined several escort missions to Iceland, and became the first American ship to make radar contact with a German U-boat on November 19, 1941. For the next year, Leary escorted convoys from the mid-ocean meeting point to a variety of ports in Iceland.

In February 1943, Leary arrived in Boston and was deployed to Guantanamo Naval Base, Cuba in March. During this deployment, Leary conducted anti-submarine exercises and escorted several convoys to Trinidad until June 1943. Trans-Atlantic escorts began in July and Leary went on two voyages to Algeria.

Leary deployed on the third such mission with escort carrier Card, and was torpedoed and sunk by German submarine U-275 on December 24, 1943 just to the north of the Azores. The attack resulted in the loss of 97 crew members, including Commander James E. Kyes.

Asbestos Risk on the USS Leary (DD-158)

Ships constructed before 1930 generally used less asbestos than those built afterwards, when new fire safety rules were enacted. Leary likely employed asbestos fireproofing around her boilers and in her engines. She may have also used asbestos insulation on steam pipes and in other heat- or fire-sensitive areas. Veteran sailors that served aboard Leary and later developed asbestos cancer likely suffered exposure to the mineral during their naval service.



Haze Gray & Underway. Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships. DD-158.

NavSource Naval History, USS Leary (DD-158).

Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance Blog


January 11, 2017
Jillian McKee

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