The USS Stevenson (DD-645) was commissioned by the U.S. Navy during World War II, and remained on the Navy list until June 1968. She was named for John H. Stevenson who served during the Civil War and the Spanish-American War. Stevenson was built as a Gleaves-class destroyer.
Stevenson was laid down at Kearny, New Jersey by the Federal Shipbuilding and Drydock Company in July 1942, launched in November, and commissioned in December with Lieutenant Commander Thomas C. Greene in command. Carrying a crew of 208, Stevenson was 348 feet, four inches long and armed with four 5-inch anti-aircraft guns, six one-half inch machine guns, and ten 21-inch torpedo tubes.
Stevenson collided with SS Berwind Vale in February 1943 off Newport, Rhode Island, lost part of her bow, and was repaired at the Brooklyn Navy Yard. The destroyer was back in service by March and escorted five merchant convoys between the east coast and North Africa from then until December 1943. During this deployment, Stevenson conducted attacks on suspected submarines. In January 1944, Stevenson was deployed with the 7th Fleet in the southwest Pacific.
Stevenson provided gunfire support duties for troops landing on Los Negros Island in February. She also participated in assaults on Humboldt Bay, Wakde, Sansapor, and Noemfoor, New Guinea up until July. Stevenson was then deployed with the Palau Islands invasion force in August to protect troop transport vessels. In October, the destroyer returned to the west coast, and then underwent overhaul at Seattle, Washington.
Stevenson conducted refresher training at Pearl Harbor in January 1945, and then operated as an escort ship to replenish vessels of the Logistics Support Group. She conducted this duty from February to August 1945, in support of aircraft carriers during the assaults on Iwo Jima and Okinawa, as well as during air attacks on Japan itself. Stevenson weathered two typhoons and in between served on occupation duty after World War II ended. In April 1946, Stevenson was decommissioned at Charleston, South Carolina, put in reserve, and was sold for scrap to the Portsmouth Salvage Company in June 1970. Stevenson was honored with seven battle stars for her service in the Second World War.
Asbestos Risk on the USS Stevenson (DD-645)
Because of its usefulness and variety of applications, asbestos was found in virtually every corridor and compartment of Stevenson. Boilers, turbines, and engines were heavily insulated with asbestos products. Steam ducts running the length and breadth of the vessel were also wrapped in asbestos insulation. The mineral was also found in pumps and valves all over the ship.
The early collision suffered by Stevenson increased the asbestos risk to her crew. When asbestos products are torn or waterlogged, they become friable. Sailors handling such materials released clouds of asbestos fibers into the air. Inhaling those fibers can injure the mesothelium, a thin, protective barrier surrounding the lungs, heart, stomach, and other internal organs. That damage can eventually lead to mesothelioma.Sources
Haze Gray & Underway. Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships. DD-645.
http://www.hazegray.org/danfs/destroy/dd645txt.htm) Retrieved 31 January 2011.
NavSource Naval History. USS Stevenson (DD-645).
http://www.navsource.org/archives/05/645.htm) Retrieved 31 January 2011.