The USS Sarsfield was a Gearing-class destroyer in service with the U.S. Navy from 1945 until 1977, before going on to sail under Taiwanese colors until 2005. She was named in honor of a destroyer commander who went down with his vessel off the coast of North Africa in 1943.
Gearing-class destroyers measured over 390 feet long and over 40 feet across amidships, displacing approximately 3500 tons or more when fully loaded. Those built at the Bath Iron Works facility were powered by twin General Electric geared turbines, fed by four Babcock & Wilcox boilers. At full steam over calm seas, Sarsfield was capable of 35 knots (equal to a land speed of around 40 MPH). Her usual crew compliment was 11 officers and 325 seamen.
Sarsfield's sixty-year career began ten days after the fall of the Japanese Empire in August 1945 with her shakedown trials off the coast of Cuba. Her first official assignment was with the Operational Development Force out of Key West, Florida. She would remain with this naval division operating in the Caribbean and mid-Atlantic for the next twenty years with few breaks, testing and demonstrating new equipment and weapons systems. During the 1950s, she carried out studies with the Surface Anti-submarine Development Detachment, the Naval Mine Countermeasures Station and the Underwater Sound Laboratory.
In the early 1960s, Sarsfield served in the recovery of two Project Mercury missions, but continued her training missions and demonstrations of new equipment until 1968. In the closing years of the 1960s, Sarsfield participated in joint exercises in the Indian Ocean with the Ethiopian Navy and French Air Force and in the South Atlantic with South American naval forces (UNITAS X).
Sarsfield spent the years between 1970 and 1977 in the Atlantic, Mediterranean and Caribbean. She was transferred to the Republic of China (Taiwan) in 1977, where she served as the ROCS Te Yang (DDG-925) until her retirement in 2005.
Sarsfield spent most of her time with the U.S. Navy testing experimental equipment, and thus underwent a number of modifications over the years. Sarsfield was first fitted with experimental equipment in December 1945 at the Brooklyn Naval Shipyard in New York. She underwent a major overhaul at the Charleston Naval Shipyard in the fall of 1958. Her most significant and extensive modifications were carried out over a twelve-month period beginning in January 1962 at the Boston Naval Shipyard. This was the Fleet Rehabilitation and Modernization (FRAM I) overhaul that was done on many World War II vessels still in service in the 1960s. Among other modifications, Sarsfield received a new superstructure, antisubmarine weapons, upgraded sonar and radar equipment and an aft helicopter flight deck (DASH). This was followed up with an addition six months of sonar and weapons modifications at Charleston in 1963 and again during the last six months of 1966. Another overhaul was done at Charleston during the first six months of 1970.
Asbestos Risk on the USS Sarsfield (DD-837)
Sarsfield used asbestos-containing materials (ACMs) in nearly every compartment, but some areas deployed these materials more extensively than others. While pipes running throughout the ship were wrapped in asbestos insulation, the highest concentration of asbestos parts was found in the engine room and in the boilers. Asbestos was also used in pumps and in to fireproof the ship’s mess.
Personnel working daily with frayed or damaged asbestos insulation over a long period of time have a higher risk of developing mesothelioma than those who experienced a low level of inhalation over a similar time frame, or a large amount of exposure in a brief time frame. If asbestos becomes torn or broken, the individual asbestos fibers become "friable". Friable means that the tiny fibers of asbestos are released and drift into the air, where they can easily be inhaled or ingested. In a ship like Sarsfield, which had a very long service history and underwent numerous refits and repairs, there was undoubtedly a large amount of wear and tear on the asbestos-based insulation aboard, increasing the risk to her crew.Sources
Destroyer History Foundation. "Gearing Class"
Mooney, James. Dictionary of American Fighting Ships. (Washington DC; Department of the Navy, 1991).