The USS Richard E. Kraus was a Gearing-class destroyer in service with the United States Navy from 1945 until 1976, and which then sailed under the South Korean flag from 1977 until 2000. She was named in honor of a 19-year-old Marine who saved his comrades by throwing himself on a grenade during the Battle of Peleliu in 1944.
The majority of Gearing-class destroyers were constructed by the Bath Iron Works in Bath, Maine. It was from this shipyard that Kraus was launched in March 1946 after nine months of building; the completed vessel was commissioned two months later.
As launched, Kraus measured 390-1/2 feet in length with a beam of just under 41 feet, displacing in excess of 3500 tons under full load. Four Babcock & Wilcox boilers provided the power for her twin General Electric geared turbines; this gave the vessel a top speed of 35 knots. Her crew compliment consisted of 11 officers and 325 seamen during peacetime; during periods of combat duty, she carried about 30 more.
Shakedown trials for the Kraus took place off the coast of Massachusetts in 1946. The vessel was then stationed out of NS Norfolk, Virginia, where she spend the next several years testing new armaments and missile systems in addition to the latest radar and communication systems.
In 1954, Kraus was reassigned to antisubmarine warfare development. For the remainder of the decade and into 1961, the destroyer operated out of Guantanamo Bay Cuba with the anti-submarine cohort Task Force Bravo.
During the diplomatic crisis in the fall of 1962 over the stationing of Soviet missiles in Cuba, Kraus was among the vessels enforcing the quarantine of that island. The following January, the destroyer was again transferred, then deployed to the Mediterranean for a three-month tour of duty between March and June of 1963. Upon her return to the states, she entered the Boston Naval Shipyard for a Fleet Rehabilitation And Modernization (FRAM I) conversion between June 1963 and May 1964. Designed to upgrade the ship and extend its service life, this involved the addition of antisubmarine weapons and a helicopter landing pad in addition to a complete rebuild of the vessel's superstructure.
After her yard period, Kraus was stationed out of Newport, Rhode Island. Over the next two years, the destroyer made deployments to the Middle East for patrols of the Red Sea and Indian Ocean as well as diplomatic port calls along the eastern coast of Africa.
In 1966, Kraus was sent to the Gulf of Tonkin for her first deployment to Vietnam. Returning to the States in August of that year, the vessel spent the next few years operating out of Charleston, South Carolina, making voyages to the Caribbean, South America, Europe, West Africa and the Indian Ocean.
Kraus' second Vietnam deployment took place between November 1972 and March 1973. After this, she returned to Charleston and continued her pattern of routine operations in the Atlantic and Caribbean.
In 1977, Kraus was transferred to South Korea, serving as the ROKS Kwang Ju (DD-921) until retired in December 2000.
Asbestos Risk on the USS Richard E. Kraus (DD-849)
On Richard E. Kraus and her sister ships, asbestos-based products were found in practically every compartment. The engine and power plant onboard utilized asbestos to insulate conduits, to cover steam boilers, and to protect elements of the ship's motors and power plant. Other parts of the ship featured asbestos covered pipes, asbestos cement, and asbestos fireproofing. Her FRAM overhaul likely exposed the crew doing that work to high concentrations of dangerous asbestos fibers.
Medical science has demonstrated a strong link between inhaling asbestos fibers and the later development of mesothelioma. There are legal options for Navy veterans with this disease.Sources
Destroyer History Foundation. "Gearing Class"
Mooney, James. Dictionary of American Fighting Ships. (Washington DC; Department of the Navy, 1991).