The USS McKee (DD-575) was commissioned by the U.S. Navy during World War II and remained in reserve until 1970. She was named for Lieutenant Hugh W. McKee who fought in the conflict with Korea in 1871. McKee was laid down as a Fletcher-class naval vessel.
McKee was laid down at Orange, Texas by the Consolidated Steel Corporation in March 1942, launched in August, and commissioned in March 1943 with Commander J.J. Greytak in command. Supporting a crew complement of 273, McKee was 376 feet, five inches long and armed with five 5-inch anti-aircraft guns, four 1.1-inch anti-aircraft guns, four 20-millimeter anti-aircraft guns, and ten 21-inch torpedo tubes.
McKee arrived at Hawaii in July 1943 and was assigned to Task Force 53 in the South Pacific following training. In November, the destroyer protected a convoy leaving the Solomon Islands after the invasion of Bougainville, while enduring Japanese air attacks, and then served as an aircraft carrier guard at New Britain. McKee rejoined the task force for the invasion of the Gilbert Islands, and participated in the invasion of Kwajalein in late January 1944. In April, she served during troop landings at Humboldt Bay, New Guinea and conducted escort duties to Hollandia.
McKee provided fire support during the invasion of Guam in July, and participated in the capture of Morotai in September. She arrived at Leyte Gulf in October and destroyed camouflaged enemy vessels, and then escorted a convoy to San Francisco in November. In January 1945, McKee was deployed to Ulithi, and participated in attacks on Iwo Jima, and then Okinawa in April, where she rescued pilots and pursued enemy aircraft and submarines. McKee resisted several kamikaze attacks during this deployment as well.
After weathering a typhoon in May, McKee underwent overhaul and repair at Leyte before serving with a destroyer force off Japan until the enemy’s official surrender in August. McKee was decommissioned at Charleston, South Carolina in February 1946 and remained with the Atlantic Reserve Fleet until being struck from the Navy list in October 1970. The destroyer was sold for scrap in January 1974. McKee received 11 battle stars for her service in World War II.
Asbestos Risk on the USS McKee (DD-575)
The U.S. Navy employed asbestos extensively in ships like McKee until around 1979. It was used as an insulator as well as for fireproofing on board all Navy vessels of the time. Since asbestos has many applications, it could be found in almost every compartment. The overall exposure risk for sailors was very high.
Crewmen repairing engines and turbines were more heavily exposed, as were those working in damage control crews. Clouds of asbestos dust surrounded people making repairs to ships like McKee, especially when refitting equipment insulated with asbestos materials. Sailors and workers exposed to asbestos can develop mesothelioma and other serious diseases. Those suffering from an asbestos-related ailment often have legal options. An experienced asbestos attorney can help you understand your rights and pursue appropriate compensation for your injury.Sources
Haze Gray & Underway. Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships. DD-575.
NavSource Naval History. USS McKee (DD-575).