The USS McNair (DD-679) was commissioned by the U.S. Navy for two decades in the mid-20th century. She was named for Rear Admiral Frederick V. McNair who served during the Civil War and as Superintendent of the Naval Academy. McNair was laid down as a Fletcher-class vessel.
McNair was laid down at Kearny, New Jersey by the Federal Shipbuilding and Dry Dock Company in June 1943, launched in November, and commissioned in December with Commander M. L. McCullough, Jr., in command. Powered by General Electric geared turbines supporting a range of 6,500 nautical miles at 15 knots, McNair was armed with ten 21-inch torpedo tubes, five 5-inch anti-aircraft guns, four 20-millimeter anti-aircraft guns, four 1.1 inch anti-aircraft guns.
McNair operated with Destroyer Squadron 34 to protect battleships during the assault on Saipan in June 1944, and remained there to provide fire support and anti-submarine duties until July. Fire and screening support resumed during the invasion of Tinian and the Palaus in September. McNair took on protective duties at Leyte Gulf in October, and trained in the Solomon Islands for the assault on Luzon where she blasted Japanese kamikazes and defended onshore troops. She also protected aircraft carriers during the Iwo Jima and Tokyo strikes in January and February 1945.
McNair fought off enemy air attacks offshore of Okinawa during the raid there in April, and conducted anti-aircraft patrols in May into June. The destroyer was then assigned to join carriers for strikes on the main islands of Japan. McNair was in the Aleutian Islands when Japan surrendered, and served occupation duty until mid-October, when she returned to the west coast and was put on reserve from May 1946 until July 1951.
Initially assigned to the Atlantic Fleet, McNair protected United Nations troops and 7th Fleet aircraft carriers off Korea in 1952, in the midst of a voyage around the world which ended in April 1953. McNair operated on the east coast and was deployed to the Middle East in April 1956, and conducted several Mediterranean and European voyages in between operations at Newport, Rhode Island. Decommissioned in December 1963, McNair was struck from the Navy list in December 1974 and sold for scrap to Ship’s, Inc. in June 1976.
Asbestos Risk on the USS McNair (DD-679)
Because mineral asbestos was essentially impervious to fire, it was used to fireproof most ships of this era. Asbestos was also an extremely efficient insulator. It was used to protect the equipment on McNair that generated heat, including engines, boilers, and turbines. After nearly half a century of widespread use, medical science came to realize that exposure to asbestos fibers was exceptionally dangerous. As a result, the use of asbestos was heavily restricted in the late 1970’s.
The abundance of asbestos installed in naval vessels, close quarters of a ship, and long stints at sea, created a very hazardous environment for sailors. Inhaling and ingestion of asbestos can lead to a diagnosis of pleural and peritoneal mesothelioma, respectively. Navy veterans suffer these conditions disproportionally with members of the other armed forces. The law provides remedies for U.S. servicemen injured by asbestos.Sources
Haze Gray & Underway. Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships. DD-679.
NavSource Naval History. USS McNair (DD-679)