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USS Nields (DD-616)

The USS Nields (DD-616) was commissioned by the U.S. Navy during World War II and remained on the Navy list for another quarter century. She was named for Lieutenant Commander Henry C. Nields who served in the American Civil War. Nields was a member of the Benson class of destroyers.

Construction

Nields was laid down at Quincy, Massachusetts by the Bethlehem Steel Corporation in June 1942, launched in October, and commissioned in December with Lieutenant Commander Albert R. Heckey in command. Featuring a crew capacity of 208, Nields 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.

Naval History

Nields began her escort service on a mission to Aruba and Cristobal, and joined Destroyer Squadron 16 before being assigned to trans-Atlantic convoy duty in April 1943. The destroyer sailed to Oran, Algeria in May and on the return trip attacked and sank Italian submarine Gorgo. Nields returned to Algeria by late June and conducted anti-submarine patrols and screening duty for troop transports to Scoglitti, Sicily. During the assault on Sicily, Nields served as a guard against aerial and underwater attacks by the enemy.

Nields returned to the United States in early August, and then spent the rest of 1943 and into March 1944 escorting Mediterranean and United Kingdom convoys. She was then assigned to anti-submarine exercises off the northeastern United States, during which 11 survivors were picked up from U-856, which was sunk by Champlin and Huse. In late April, Nields joined the 8th Fleet in the Mediterranean and served as a coastal escort and patrol vessel off Algeria. During this deployment, she engaged in a chase of U-616 which lasted four days.

Nields continued escort duty in North African and Italian waters until the invasion of southern France in August, during which she blocked E-boats from the transport areas and fired on enemy installations to protect ground forces. The destroyer made several more trans-Atlantic voyages, and then was assigned to the Pacific in July 1945. During this deployment, Nields aided in the occupation of the Ryukyus Islands. Nields was put out of commission in March 1946, struck from the Navy list in September 1970, and sold for scrap in May 1972.

Asbestos Risk on the USS Nields (DD-616)

Asbestos insulation and fireproofing was used in almost all ships of this era. On board Nields, asbestos-containing material was present in most compartments, used to insulate equipment and steam pipes. Higher concentrations of asbestos could be found in specific parts of the ship, such as the engineering room. Most crewmen assigned to or performing repair work on Nields were likely exposed to asbestos. When inhaled, microscopic asbestos fibers can eventually cause pleural mesothelioma.

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Sources

Sources

Haze Gray & Underway. Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships. DD-616.
http://www.hazegray.org/danfs/destroy/dd616txt.htm

NavSource Naval History. USS Nields (DD-616).
http://www.navsource.org/archives/05/616.htm

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