The USS Plunkett (DD-431) served in the U.S. Navy for half a decade in the early 20th century and was then transferred to the Chinese government. She was named for Rear Admiral Charles Peshall Plunkett who served in the Spanish-American War and World War I. Plunkett was constructed as a Gleaves-class ship.
Plunkett was laid down at Kearny, New Jersey by the Federal Shipbuilding and Dry Dock Company in March 1939, launched in March 1940, and commissioned in July with Lieutenant Commander P.G. Hale in command. Carrying a crew of 208, Plunkett was armed with four five-inch anti-aircraft guns, six one-half inch machine guns, and ten 21-inch torpedo tubes.
Plunkett served on Neutrality Patrol in the western Atlantic and the Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean, as well as off Tampico, Mexico. She then served off Martinique and resumed patrol and escort duty in the North Atlantic until the United States entered World War II. In March 1942, Plunkett operated with the British Home Fleet and conducted patrols in the North Sea. Plunkett returned to duty in the North Atlantic in August and sailed to North Africa in November to deliver troops and equipment to Casablanca and patrol off Morocco.
Plunkett returned to New York and served escort duty to Casablanca again, and then along the east coast until May 1943. She joined the Western Task Force in July to participate in the invasion of Sicily. In September, Plunkett tried to save British hospital ship Newfoundland, but had to sink her.
On an escort mission from North Africa to Naples in January 1944, Plunkett was attacked by enemy aircraft and received extensive damage. She was temporarily repaired at Palermo, and later was completely repaired at New York. Plunkett returned to European waters in May and took part in the invasion of France in August, before returning to the United States in January 1945.
Plunkett conducted routine operations until May, and then was assigned to trans-Atlantic duty as an escort. When hostilities ended in Europe, Plunkett was deployed to the Pacific, and escorted occupation forces to Japan from the United States, and then from the Philippines. In May 1946, Plunkett was decommissioned, but was assigned to the Atlantic Reserve Fleet at Charleston Naval Shipyard. She was transferred to the Nationalist Chinese government in February 1959, under the name Nan Yang, where she served until being broken up for scrap in 1975.
Asbestos Risk on the USS Plunkett (DD-431)
Like all of the destroyers of this era, Plunkett used asbestos insulation and fireproofing throughout the vessel. Even areas that had no mechanical function often contained the mineral, as it was mixed into paints and cements. Pipe wrap was often fortified with asbestos, and many pumps had gaskets made from the material.
Asbestos products are most dangerous when they are damaged or worn. The heavy damage suffered by Plunkett on her North Africa mission was very likely to increase the exposure risk to her crew. When asbestos products are torn, individual fibers break off and become airborne. Sailors had little or no gear to protect them from inhaling such fibers. The link between inhaling asbestos and developing mesothelioma cancer is well established.
There are legal remedies available to veteran sailors and families affected by mesothelioma. Your rights and options are explained in our free mesothelioma information kit. Just complete the form on this page, and we’ll send this valuable guide to you right away.Sources
Haze Gray & Underway. Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships. DD-431.
NavSource Naval History, USS Plunkett (DD-431).