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USS Mertz (DD-691)

The USS Mertz (DD-691) served in the U.S. Navy for approximately three years during the mid-20th century. She was named for Rear Admiral Albert Mertz. Mertz was built as a Fletcher-class ship.

Construction

Mertz was laid down in Bath, Maine by Bath Iron Works in May 1943. She was launched in September 1943 and commissioned in November 1943, with Commander William S. Estabrook, Jr. at the helm. Mertz carried a crew of 273 and had a cruising speed of 38 knots. She was armed with five five-inch anti-aircraft guns, four one-and-one-tenth-inch anti-aircraft guns, four 20-millimeter anti-aircraft guns, and ten 21-inch torpedo tubes.

Naval History

Mertz began her military service in the Pacific in March 1944. A few days after her arrival, she sailed to the Marshalls as a convoy escort. Near the end of the month, she encountered a Japanese merchant ship in the area and successfully sunk the vessel.

In mid-May, Mertz returned to Pearl Harbor to join a fleet preparing for the Marianas campaign. Several months later, she participated in the occupations of Pelelieu and Anguar. In October, she was part of the invasion of Leyte in the Philippines. During the operation, she was part of the near-total destruction of the enemy fleet and splashed at least one plane.

The final months of 1944 saw Mertz in Hollandia, Manus, the Sulu Sea, and the Lingayen Gulf. Beginning in February 1945, Mertz spent several months at sea as part of the Fast Carrier Task Force, assisting in strikes on Tokyo, the landings at Iwo Jima, and the raid on Okinawa. In July, she joined the fleet launching a strike against the Japanese home islands as a patrol vessel along the coast and assisted in anti-shipping sweeps. When the Japanese surrendered on August 14, Mertz was en route to the Aleutians.

Mertz served a short stint of peacetime duty as part of the occupation of the northern Nonshu-Hokaido area. She returned to the U.S. in September 1945, and was decommissioned six months later. She remained on reserve until 1959. She was later decommissioned, then sold and broken up for scrap. Mertz was honored with ten battle stars for her service in World War II.

Asbestos Risk on the USS Mertz (DD-691)

The Mertz used ACMs (asbestos-containing materials) in nearly every compartment. Large quantities of asbestos insulation were installed in the boiler room and in engineering. Even sections with no engineering function used asbestos-containing materials, as the substance was used in cement, adhesives, paint, gaskets and other hardware.

Vessels that had combat roles posed an even greater asbestos risk. This is because damaged asbestos materials become friable. Individual fibers can flake off from friable asbestos, entering the atmosphere. Mertz’s extensive battle history during World War II likely increased the amount of friable asbestos on board, and with it, the risk to her sailors. Inhaling asbestos fibers has been proven to lead to mesothelioma and other serious diseases.

Sources

Sources

Haze Gray & Underway. Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships. DD-691.
http://www.hazegray.org/danfs/destroy/dd691txt.htm

NavSource Naval History, USS Mertz (DD-691).
http://www.navsource.org/archives/05/691.htm

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