The USS Sproston (DD-173) was one of 111 Wickes-class destroyers constructed for the US Navy after World War I. Along with the other 110 Wickes-class destroyers constructed during this time frame, Sproston was built in response to the increasing tension between the United States and Germany. In 1916, the US Congress authorized the construction of 50 destroyers as part of its naval expansion act, which called for the construction of “a fleet second to none.” Due to the scope of the U-boat campaign, however, 111 Wickes-class destroyers were ultimately constructed in order to address the growing anti-submarine need.
Sproston was the first of two naval vessels named in honor of John G. Sproston, who was an officer in the US Navy during the Civil War. Sproston was killed in action in Florida while on an expedition to destroy a Confederate privateer.
Sproston was laid down by Union Iron Works in San Francisco, California on April 20, 1918. Sponsored by Mrs. George J. Dennis, she was launched on August 10, 1918 and was commissioned on July 12, 1919.
As was the case with all Wickes-class destroyers, Sproston was outfitted with four stacks and a flush deck. The flush deck design used with Wickes-class destroyers was different from that found in its predecessor, as the class of ships needed the additional hull strength in order to reach the required top speed of 35 knots so that the destroyers could sail alongside the Omaha-class scout cruisers and Lexington-class battle cruisers, which were capable of achieving faster speeds. Due to the additional 100 tons of engine and reduction gears required to achieve the higher speeds, the Wickes-class design also included nearly horizontal propeller shafts and an even keel in an attempt to minimize the increase in weight. As was customary with Wickes-class destroyers, Sproston carried four 4-inch/50 caliber naval guns as well as twelve 12-inch torpedo tubes.
Following commissioning, Sproston was assigned to the Pacific Fleet. She operated in this capacity from the fall of 1919 to July of the following year, at which time she was reclassified to a light minelayer. As DM-13, Sproston continued to operate out of Pearl Harbor until August 15, 1922, at which time she was decommissioned. Sproston remained attached to the reserve fleet in Pearl Harbor until she was struck from the Navy list on December 1, 1936. At that time, Sproston was sunk as a target.
Asbestos Risk on the USS Sproston (DD-173)
Installing asbestos in the design of naval ships was mandated by the US Congress in the 1930s, after a deadly fire on a luxury liner killed more than 100 people. Navy ships like Sproston made use of asbestos insulation extensively around engines and engineering compartments, as well as to insulate steam pipes all over the ship. When asbestos becomes worn it becomes friable, which means that individual fibers can break off and enter the atmosphere, and then can be inhaled or ingested by naval personnel and dockworkers, increasing the odds of developing mesothelioma. Asbestos has been known for centuries for its insulation properties, but it has also been shown to be the leading cause of such serious diseases like pleural plaques and mesothelioma.
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Sproston. Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships. Department of the Navy – Naval Historical Center. (http://www.history.navy.mil/danfs/s16/sproston-i.htm) Retrieved 20 December 2010.