The USS Meade (DD-602) was commissioned by the U.S. Navy in the early to mid-1940s and remained on the Navy list until the early 1970s. She was named for Rear Admiral Richard Worsam Meade and Brigadier General Robert Lemy Meade who served in the Civil War. Meade was laid down as a Benson-class destroyer.
Meade was laid down at Staten Island, New York by the Bethlehem Steel Corporation in March 1941, launched in February 1942, and commissioned in June with Lieutenant Commander R.S. Lamb in command. Carrying a crew of 208, Meade was 348 feet, four inches long and armed with six one-half inch machine guns, four five-inch anti-aircraft guns, and ten 21-inch torpedo tubes.
Meade sailed from Guantanamo Bay, Cuba to the South Pacific as an escort for Washington, and arrived at Tongatabu in September. During this deployment, Meade protected aircraft carrier groups between South Pacific bases and forces operating in the Solomon Islands. Meade served this duty for Kopara during the battle at Guadalcanal in November, where she rescued 288 crew members from Preston and Walk.
Meade continued escort duties in the region through December, and guarded aircraft carriers of Task Force 18 during the Battle of Rennell Island in January 1943. Following operations in the Aleutian Islands and overhaul at Puget Sound, Washington, Meade reported for duty with the 5th Fleet Assault Force at New Zealand in October, and then proceeded to the invasion of the Gilbert Islands. During this deployment, Meade protected other vessels and also conducted shore bombardment.
Meade, along with Frazier, attacked Japanese submarine I-35 and sank the enemy vessel, and then returned to Pearl Harbor in December before the invasion of the Marshall Islands. The destroyer fired on enemy installations and screened other vessels during the assault, and returned to the west coast for overhaul in September. Meade served as a training vessel at Pearl Harbor before being assigned to escort duty in the Carolines and Marshall Islands, and then was deployed for the amphibious operations at Midnoro, Philippines in May.
Meade continued escort duty and supplied French military personnel with provisions and medical supplies after the war. In December, Meade arrived at Norfolk, Virginia for overhaul, and was decommissioned at Charleston, South Carolina in June 1946, struck from the Navy list in January 1971, and sunk off Florida in February 1973.
Asbestos Risk on the USS Meade (DD-602)
Asbestos was a versatile material offering excellent insulation and fire resistance. It had many applications, and was found in nearly every corridor and compartment on a ship. The heaviest concentration of the mineral was in engine and boiler rooms, but no area of Meade was without some exposure risk.
Because the toxic nature of asbestos was not fully realized until the 1970s, sailors wore little or no protective gear. That, combined with the high concentration of asbestos parts aboard the Meade, created an extremely hazardous environment. Navy veterans that served on this and other ships of this era are amongst those most likely to develop mesothelioma as a result of their asbestos exposure.Sources
Haze Gray & Underway. Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships. DD-602
NavSource Naval History. USS Meade (DD-602).