The USS Mitscher (DD-927) served in the U.S. Navy for two and a half decades in the mid-20th century. She was named for Vice Admiral Marc Andrew Mitscher who served in World War II and as Commander-in-Chief, United States Atlantic Fleet. Mitscher was the flagship vessel of the Mitscher class of naval destroyers.
Mitscher was laid down at Bath, Maine by the Bath Iron Works Corporation in October 1949, launched in January 1952, and commissioned in May 1953 with Commander Terrell W. Connor in command. Featuring a crew capacity of 360, Mitscher was 490 feet long and armed with two five-inch rapid fire guns, four three-inch rapid fire guns, eight 20-millimeter anti-submarine weapons systems, four 21-inch torpedo tubes, and one DC rack. She was driven by geared turbines supporting a cruising speed of 36.5 knots and a range of 4,500 nautical miles at 20 knots.
Mitscher conducted her first exercises off Cuba and then underwent additional modifications at Boston, Massachusetts. Additional training followed off Cuba until August 1954. Mitscher was then based at Newport, Rhode Island and operated off the east coast until January 1956, when the destroyer embarked on a goodwill cruise to England, France, and Germany until February. She then operated off the east coast for the next six years, and also conducted annual exercises in the northern or eastern Atlantic with NATO forces.
Mitscher assumed a new home port at Charleston Naval Shipyard in South Carolina in February 1961 and then was deployed with the 6th Fleet to the Mediterranean. This deployment lasted eight months, and Mitscher returned to the region in 1964 to help evacuate American nationals from Cyprus as well as patrol the Red Sea and the Persian Gulf. Mitscher was converted to a guided missile destroyer at the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard in 1966, and was re-commissioned as DDG-35 in June 1968.
Mitscher operated in this capacity until being decommissioned and struck from the Navy list in June 1978. The destroyer was sold for scrap in August 1980 and remained in port, awaiting her fate, as of January 2008.
Asbestos Risk on the USS Mitscher (DD-927)
Since asbestos had so many uses, the dangerous fibers were found throughout the naval vessels of this era. Asbestos-containing material was used with greater frequency in certain compartments of Mitscher, like engineering spaces and boiler rooms. Other areas of the ship also used asbestos, including the mess halls and galleys, bunk areas, fuel tanks, ammunition lockers, and any section that held machinery.
Most crewmen sailing or working on Mitscher were exposed to asbestos fibers during their service. Sailors assigned to the engine room, where asbestos products were used in greater quantities, often suffered the most dangerous exposure. An individual's chance of developing asbestos cancer goes up considerably if he worked frequently with frayed and damaged asbestos-containing material. Such materials can easily release nearly invisible asbestos fibers into the air. After it is inhaled into the lungs, asbestos dust promotes tumor formation in the mesothelium and can result in mesothelioma. As asbestos exposure is the only known source of mesothelioma and asbestosis, there are usually legal options for naval personnel and civilian workers with these diseases.Sources