USS O’Bannon (DD-177) is one of 111 Wickes-class destroyers constructed for the US Navy after World War I. Along with the other 110 Wickes-class destroyers constructed at the time, O’Bannon was built in response to the increasing tension between the United States and Germany. In 1916, the US Congress authorized the construction of 50 destroyers as part of its naval expansion act, which called for the construction of “a fleet second to none.” Due to the scope of the U-boat campaign, however, 111 Wickes-class destroyers were ultimately constructed in response to the German threat.
O’Bannon was the first of three navy vessels named in honor of Major Presley Neville O’Bannon, who gained fame for his heroism in the First Barbary War. O’Bannon was awarded a sword from Prince Hamet Karamanli for his bravery in helping the prince restore his thrown. The sword was later used as the model for the Mameluke Sword, which has been part of the Marine Corp officer dress uniform since 1825.
O’Bannon was laid down on November 12, 1918 by Union Iron Works in San Francisco, California. She was sponsored by Mrs. Henry O’Bannon Cooper, who was a descendent of O’Bannon’s through marriage. Lt. Robert F. Gross took command of O’Bannon on August 27, 1919 in San Francisco.
As was the case with all Wickes-class destroyers, O’Bannon featured four stacks and a flush deck. The flush deck design utilized with Wickes-class destroyers provided the ships with the strength that was necessary to allow them to obtain the required top speed of 35 knots. O’Bannon also featured four 4-inch/50 caliber naval guns and twelve 12-inch torpedo tubes.
Following commissioning, O’Bannon sailed along the coast of California and in Hawaiian waters as she engaged in exercises and training maneuvers. Although she remained in this area for the remainder of her career, her duties did change slightly from time to time. In the spring of 1920, for example, O’Bannon conducted torpedo experiments. She also went into reserve commission for a brief period of time from June through November before she continued her training schedule once again.
O’Bannon was decommissioned on May 27, 1922 in San Diego. She was struck from the navy list on May 19, 1936 before she was sold on September 29, 1936.
Asbestos Risk on the USS O’Bannon (DD-177)
The installation of asbestos in the construction of naval ships was mandated by the US Congress in the early 1930s, after a fire at sea on the SS Morro Castle killed 137 people. Navy ships like O'Bannon used asbestos insulation frequently around ship's boilers and engine spaces, as well as to insulate pipes in all parts of the vessel. If an asbestos-based product is worn or damaged it becomes friable, meaning that the fibers can be broken off and escape into the air, where they can be breathed in by sailors or dockworkers, possibly causing mesothelioma. The damage brought about by asbestos occurs when very small fibers are breathed in or swallowed; the fibers invade the lungs and sometimes other organs, causing development of scar tissue in the case of asbestosis and damage at the DNA level in the case of mesothelioma.
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O’Bannon. Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships. Department of the Navy – Naval Historical Center. (http://www.history.navy.mil/danfs/o1/obannon-i.htm) Retrieved 20 December 2010