The USS Newman K. Perry (DD-883) served in the U.S. Navy for over three and a half decades in the mid-to-late-20th century. She was named for Ensign Newman Kershaw Perry, who died in an explosion aboard Bennington in 1905. Newman K. Perry was designed to Gearing-class destroyer specifications.
Newman K. Perry was laid down at Orange, Texas by the Consolidated Steel Corporation in October 1944, launched in March 1945, and commissioned in July with Commander Norman E. Smith in command. Supporting a crew complement of 336, Newman K. Perry was 390 feet, six inches in length and armed with ten 21-inch torpedo tubes, six five-inch anti-aircraft guns, eleven 20-millimeter anti-aircraft guns, and twelve 40-millimeter anti-aircraft guns.
Newman K. Perry operated in the Atlantic until sailing for Pearl Harbor in November 1945. Following three months of occupation duty, Newman K. Perry returned to Pearl Harbor in March 1946 and then was assigned to observe atomic bomb tests at Bikini Atoll. She was also present for similar tests in the Marshall Islands in May, and then returned to the United States.
Newman K. Perry arrived at San Diego Naval Shipyard in mid-August and remained there until August 1947, and then sailed to Yokosuka in September as part of Destroyer Division 132. Patrol, escort, search and rescue, anti-submarine, and hydrographic survey duties were among the roster of activities for Newman K. Perry off China, Taiwan, and Okinawa until May 1948. Newman K. Perry then operated as a naval reservist training ship out of San Diego in the summer.
Newman K. Perry began an overhaul at Mare Island in October and participated in fleet exercises off the west coast from January to April 1949, when the destroyer reported to a new home port at Newport, Rhode Island. Operations with the 2nd Fleet and in the Mediterranean followed, and Newman K. Perry was assigned as a radar picket destroyer from 1950 to 1954.
In 1959, Newman K. Perry changed home ports to Charleston, South Carolina. She returned to the western Pacific in 1966 for duty off Vietnam, and was stationed at the Mekong Delta and the Gulf of Tonkin. Newman K. Perry left the combat zone in March 1967, arrived at Newport in May, and resumed Atlantic and Mediterranean duties in 1968. Decommissioned in February 1981, Newman K. Perry was transferred to South Korea, renamed Kyong Kai, and served there until 1997 and was used for scrap in 1999.
Asbestos Risk on the USS Newman K. Perry (DD-883)
As asbestos was employed in so many applications ship-wide, nearly everyone on board was exposed at one point or another. Crewmen assigned to engineering duties usually suffered the greatest and most sustained exposure. Workers that repaired and overhauled the Newman K. Perry had a similarly high level of risk.
Intact asbestos products pose little risk on their own. It is when those products become worn or damaged that they pose the greatest threat. Asbestos is a mineral fiber, and when it is disrupted, friable asbestos can break off from the finished product. Airborne asbestos fibers are easily inhaled. Once inside the body, they can lodge in the lungs and surrounding tissues, causing serious diseases like mesothelioma. While Perry’s service history doesn’t indicate serious battle damage, her Mare Island overhaul likely involved replacing worn-out asbestos insulation, increasing the exposure risk on board.Sources
Haze Gray & Underway. Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships. DD-883.
NavSource Naval History. Newman K. Perry (DD-883).