The USS Rupertus (DD-851) was a Gearing-class destroyer serving in the United States Navy from 1946 until 1973, then went on to a career with the Greek Navy for another twenty-two years. She was named for a Marine Corps officer who served from 1913 until 1945.
Rupertus was built at the Bethlehem Steel Shipyard in Quincy, Massachusetts. Launched in September 1945, she was commissioned the following March.
One of two derivatives of the highly successful Fletcher-class design, the Gearing-class was 390-1/2 feet from stem to stern with a beam of 40 feet and 10 inches. Fully loaded, she displaced more than 3500 tons. Her four boilers were manufactured by Babcock & Wilcox, which powered two Westinghouse steam turbines; this propulsion set-up gave the Gearing-class a top speed of thirty-five knots (approximately 40 miles per hour). During peacetime, a Gearing-type destroyer carried a crew compliment of 336; this was usually increased for combat duty.
Initial shakedown trials took place in 1946 off the coast of Cuba and along the East Coast. Following this, she was stationed out of San Francisco. For the next three years, she made periodic voyages to the Far East; in October 1949, she was among the last U.S. ships to leave the port of Tsingtao, China before Mao Zedong took control of the country.
In 1950, her home port was shifted to San Diego. She was deployed to Korea in November of that year, remaining in the combat zone through the following July. Her second Korean deployment took place between February and September of 1952.
Following a major overhaul, Rupertus continued Far East deployments out of San Diego for the remainder of the decade.
In 1960, Rupertus was transferred to NB Yokosuka, Japan, remaining in the Far East until December 1962. She underwent a year-long Fleet Rehabilitation And Modernization (FRAM I) overhaul in San Francisco between 1962 and 1963, which involved replacement of the superstructure as well as the addition of antisubmarine weaponry and an aft helicopter landing pad.
Rupertus was then based in Long Beach and in subsequent years, the destroyer was sent to Vietnam and served with the recovery team for both Gemini and Apollo space missions.
Rupertus returned to San Diego from a Vietnam deployment in August of 1970, where she underwent extensive drydock repairs. She made two more cruises to the Far East in 1972 and 1973. In the spring of that year, a thorough inspection of the vessel resulted in her disposal. She was transferred to the Greek Navy that July and continued in service as the HNS Kounouriotis (D-213) until retired in 1994. As of this writing, the vessel is laid up in the port town of Chania, Crete awaiting final disposal.
Asbestos Risk on the USS Rupertus (DD-851)
Military craft utilized asbestos products as insulation for their boilers and other heavy equipment beginning in the 20th century. Asbestos was found in so many products, the dangerous fibers could be found nearly everywhere aboard Rupertus. As the mineral’s use became more common, sailors and others started to develop mesothelioma and other asbestos-related illnesses. As a result, asbestos was heavily restricted in the late 1970s.
Repairs, refits and overhauls to the Rupertus presented an additional asbestos risk. Removing and replacing worn asbestos products can cause individual asbestos fibers to become airborne. Such fibers are easily inhaled if proper protective gear is not employed. Because the true danger of asbestos wasn’t fully realized until late in her service, many workers were not adequately protected.Sources
Destroyer History Foundation. "Gearing Class"
Mooney, James. Dictionary of American Fighting Ships. (Washington DC; Department of the Navy, 1991).