USS Ralph Talbot (DD-390) was a Bagley-class destroyer constructed by the US Navy. She was named in honor of Ralph Talbot, a Second Lieutenant with the USMC during World War I. Talbot was the first Marine Corps aviator to earn a Medal of Honor.
Ralph Talbot was laid down by the Boston Navy Yard on October 28, 1935. Launched on October 31, 1936, she was sponsored by Mrs. Mary Talbot, who was the namesake’s mother. Lieutenant Commander H.R. Thurber took command of Ralph Talbot on October 14, 1937.
Following commissioning, Ralph Talbot operated in the eastern Pacific as part of Destroyers, Battle Force. By mid-April 1941, she had steamed to Pearl Harbor, which is where she remained for the rest of the year. As such, Ralph Talbot was moored at Pearl Harbor at the time of the infamous attacks on December 7. Within minutes of the attack, her crew had manned her guns and began searching for enemy submarines.
In January 1942, Ralph Talbot joined Task Force 8 as they raided the Japanese at the Marshalls and Gilberts. In February and March, she joined in the raids against Wake and Marcus Islands. Ralph Talbot then returned to Pearl Harbor, after which she spent time conducting escort duties before sailing to Australia, New Zealand and the Solomons.
After being assigned to Task Group 62.6, Ralph Talbot screened the transport group that was en route to Guadalcanal. The first battle of Savo Island soon ensued, during which Ralph Talbot undertook friendly fire before being attacked by an enemy cruiser. Ralph Talbot was seriously damaged during the battle, which resulted in the loss of 12 men, including the Doctor and the Chief Pharmacist’s Mate. Despite the damage, fires and flooding, Ralph Talbot’s crew was able to get her back to the United States on her own.
Following repairs and additional training, Ralph Talbot headed to Brisbane, Australia. On June 30, Ralph Talbot rescued 300 survivors from the McCawley (APA-4) during the New Georgia campaign. She went on to participate in numerous bombardments, air attacks, escort duties and other wartime efforts, including a sweep up the Slot and participation in the bombardment on New Britain on November 29, until August 1944. At this time, Ralph Talbot rescued 24 survivors after the USS Indianapolis sank in the Philippine Sea.
Ralph Talbot was decommissioned on August 29, 1946 after serving as a target for Operation Crossroads. She was sunk on March 8, 1948 in deep waters off of the Kwajalein atoll. She was struck from the Navy list on April 5, 1948. Ralph Talbot earned 14 battle stars for her service during World War II.
Asbestos Risk on the USS Ralph Talbot (DD-390)
Using asbestos in the construction of all vessels was required by Congress in the early 1930s, after a deadly fire aboard a cruise ship resulted in enormous loss of life. Navy ships like Ralph Talbot made use of asbestos insulation in large quantities, particularly in boilers and engineering rooms, and to insulate steam pipes in all parts of the ship. Asbestos has long been known for its insulation properties, but it was also shown to be the main cause of such debilitating illnesses such as pleural plaques and mesothelioma.
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Ralph Talbot. Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships. Department of the Navy – Naval Historical Center.
http://www.history.navy.mil/danfs/r2/ralph_talbot.htm Retrieved 1 January 2011.