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USS Swasey (DD-273)

USS Swasey (DD-273) was one of 156 Clemson-class destroyers to be constructed for the U.S. Navy. She was named in honor of Charles H. Swasey, who was an officer in the U.S. Navy. The USS Swasey was killed in action during the Civil War.


Swasey was laid down by the Bethlehem Shipbuilding Corporation in Squantum, Massachusetts on May 7, 1919. She was sponsored by Ms. Mary L. Swasey and was commissioned on August 8, 1919.

As was the case with all Clemson-class destroyers, Swasey was capable of reaching speeds of up to 35 knots. Unlike the Wickes-class before it, Clemson-class destroyers were characterized by wing tanks, which were positioned on either side of the ship. These tanks allowed the ships to carry more fuel than the previous class, which made it possible for them to travel further distances. Since the tanks were above the waterline, however, this characteristic made the ships more vulnerable to attack.

Like other Clemson-class destroyers, Swasey featured a larger rudder than the previous class. This change provided her with a reduced turning radius. Another feature that differentiated Clemson-class destroyers from those before them was the addition of another set of 3-inch 23 caliber anti-aircraft guns.

Naval History

Following commissioning, Swasey was assigned to the Pacific Fleet. She then sailed out to the west coast before arriving at Pearl Harbor in the fall of 1919. Swasey remained in Pearl Harbor until the summer of 1922, at which time she returned to San Diego, California.

On June 10, 1922, Swasey was decommissioned and assigned to the reserve fleet. She remained in the reserve fleet for the next 17 years, until she was deactivated on December 18, 1939. After undergoing an overhaul and completing sea trials, Swasey was transferred to Britain as part of the destroyers for bases agreement. Although the transfer took place on November 26, 1940, Swasey was not struck from the Navy list until January 8, 1941.

Following her transfer to the British Royal Navy, Swasey’s name was changed to Rockingham. Shortly after, she was modified to perform as a trade convoy escort service. This process involved removing three of her four-inch/50 caliber guns and three of her triple tornado tube mounts. In this way, additional depth charges and a hedgehog could be added. The ship formerly known as Swasey was then assigned to Escort Group B-1 of the Mid-Ocean Escort Force. She was ultimately sunk on September 27, 1944 when she struck a mine while under tow.

Asbestos Risk on the USS Swasey (DD-273)

Because asbestos products were used abundantly in the construction of Navy ships, nearly every crewman serving on one of them may have been subjected to asbestos exposure. Many Navy men and women over the last several decades have been diagnosed with pleural mesothelioma as well as other asbestos-related illnesses. As a result, asbestos was banned in the 1970s. Many areas on board Swasey were contaminated with asbestos. The highest concentrations, however, could be found in the engine and machine rooms. In addition, asbestos packing was found in pumps and valves all over the ship, and asbestos-based putties, cements, and even paints were in common use.

Sailors who regularly worked with frayed or damaged asbestos insulation over a long period of time have a much higher risk of developing mesothelioma than those who sustained lower levels of exposure over the same time period, or a higher level of exposure in a brief amount of time. Large amounts of particulate asbestos surrounded those working on ship repairs. As it has been clearly shown that asbestos exposure can result in life-threatening illnesses and potential death, legal solutions are often available to those who have been diagnosed with asbestos-related conditions. If you served on the USS Swasey and have developed mesothelioma, please fill out the form on this page to request more information.



Swasey. Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships. Department of the Navy – Naval Historical Center.

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