The USS Steinaker (DD-863) served in the U.S. Navy for three and a half decades during the middle of the 20th century. She was named for Donald B. Steinaker, a U.S. Navy officer killed during World War II. Steinaker was built as a Gearing-class ship.
Steinaker was laid down Staten Island, New York by Bethlehem Steel in September 1944. She was launched in February 1945 and commissioned in May 1945, with Commander S.A. McCornock at the helm. Steinaker carried a crew of 336 and had a cruising speed of 36.8 knots. She was armed with six five-inch anti-aircraft guns, twelve 40-millimeter anti-aircraft guns, eleven 20-millimeter anti-aircraft guns, and ten 21-inch torpedo tubes.
Steinaker began her service in the Atlantic in 1945, participating in a variety of exercises and Mediterranean deployments over the course of her first years at sea. In 1952, she was converted to a radar picket destroyer and re-classified as DDR-863. She rejoined the fleet in 1954 and spent the decade that followed serving the fleet in that capacity.
In 1964, Steinaker received her fleet rehabilitation and modernization (FRAM) overhaul. During the overhaul, she received modern anti-submarine weapons and detection technology. When the overhaul was complete, the vessel was re-designated as DD-863. In 1967, Steinaker was deployed to the Red Sea and Indian Ocean as part of the Middle East Force, and in 1968, she was dispatched to the western Pacific as the conflict heated up in Vietnam. While stationed in the war zone, Steinaker provided gunfire support at Binh Thuan and Phu Yen and participated in the “Sea Dragon” operation designed to intercept North Vietnamese forces bound for South Vietnam.
Steinaker returned to the U.S. in 1968 and re-joined the Atlantic fleet. In the years that followed, she supported NATO forces, visited the Mediterranean, and patrolled in the North Atlantic. In 1974, she was re-assigned as a reserve training ship, and she was finally decommissioned and stricken from the Navy list in 1982 as the proud recipient of two battle stars for her service in Vietnam.
Steinaker was transferred to government of Mexico in 1982 and renamed Netzahualcoyotl. She remained active with the Mexican navy through the first decade of the 21st century.
Asbestos Risk on the USS Steinaker (DD-863)
Because of its extremely wide variety of applications, asbestos was used in virtually every corridor and compartment in a warship. Sections of Steinaker that included heavy machinery or large numbers of gaskets, pumps, and valves contained more asbestos than others. Mess halls and kitchens, sleeping areas, fuel tanks, and ammo lockers were also known to contain asbestos insulation.
Sailors on Steinaker were almost certainly exposed to asbestos. Inhaling asbestos fibers is linked to the development of serious illnesses later in life, including mesothelioma cancer. Navy veterans, particularly those serving in the 30’s through 70’s, are amongst those most likely to be diagnosed with asbestos-related illness.Sources
Haze Gray & Underway. Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships. DD-863.
http://www.hazegray.org/danfs/destroy/dd863txt.htm) Retrieved 26 February 2011.
NavSource Naval History, USS Steinaker (DD-863).
http://www.navsource.org/archives/05/863.htm) Retrieved 26 February 2011.