The USS Shea (DD-750) remained on the Navy list for nearly three decades in the mid-20th century. She was named for Lieutenant John Joseph Shea who lost his life on an explosion aboard Wasp in the Second World War. Shea was commissioned as an Allen M. Sumner class naval vessel.
Shea was laid down at Staten Island, New York by the Bethlehem Steel Corporation in December 1943, launched in May 1944, and commissioned in September with Commander Charles C. Kirkpatrick in command. Carrying a crew of 336, Shea had a displacement of 3,218 tons and was armed with eleven 20-millimeter anti-aircraft guns, six five-inch anti-aircraft guns, twelve 40-millimeter anti-aircraft guns, and ten 21-inch torpedo tubes.
Shea completed her shakedown training off the east coast and Bermuda before leaving for San Francisco in December 1944. The destroyer arrived at Pearl Harbor for additional training in March 1945, and then began her wartime duties at Okinawa in March. During this deployment, Shea conducted radar picket exercises, battled enemy air attacks, and stood guard against submarines. Shea was en-route to radar picket duty off Okinawa in May when she was attacked by Japanese bombers, one of which crashed into the destroyer, causing massive damage and fires, resulting in 26 casualties and 91 injuries.
Shea sailed to Haushi for medical assistance and then underwent repairs at Kerama Retto, where much of her ammunition and radar equipment was removed. The destroyer joined convoy OKU #4 on the way to Ulithi Atoll, and via Pearl Harbor and San Diego, arrived at Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in June. Shea then underwent repairs until October and then sailed for Casco Bay, Maine.
Shea operated with the Atlantic Fleet from 1946 to late 1953 and was based out of Charleston, South Carolina. Operating along the coast and in the Caribbean Sea, Shea conducted a Mediterranean cruise in 1950 and returned to the Pacific in September 1953. The destroyer then participated in mine-laying and anti-submarine exercises, off the west coast, from Mexico to British Columbia and out to Hawaii. In 1954, Shea was deployed to Eniwetok Atoll during atomic tests there, and was placed on reserve in April 1958. Shea was struck from the Navy list in September 1973 and sold for scrap to General Metals in August 1974.
Asbestos Risk on the USS Shea (DD-750)
Because asbestos was so versatile, the mineral was found throughout naval vessels like Shea in a wide variety of components and construction materials. Boilers, engines, and turbines were heavily insulated with asbestos. Galleys used asbestos for fireproofing. Paints, adhesives, and cements were often mixed with asbestos to increase their resistance to fire.
Exposure to asbestos-containing material, and specifically friable asbestos, increases a sailor's risk of developing mesothelioma cancer. Asbestos products become friable when they are damaged or worn. The collision Shea suffered with the Japanese bomber likely sent clouds of asbestos dust billowing into the air. This airborne asbestos posed a significant hazard to the sailors performing damage control and firefighting duties. Many Navy veterans of World War II, Korea, and Vietnam have been diagnosed with mesothelioma linked to their military service.Sources
Haze Gray & Underway. Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships. DD-750.
http://www.hazegray.org/danfs/destroy/dd750txt.htm) Retrieved 14 February 2011.
NavSource Naval History. USS Shea (DD-750).
http://www.navsource.org/archives/05/750.htm) Retrieved 14 February 2011.