The USS Turner (DD-648) served in the U.S. Navy during the early 1940s before sinking off New York. She was named for Captain Daniel Turner who served in the Battle of Lake Erie and as commander of Constitution. Turner was laid down as a Gleaves-class ship.
Turner was laid down at Kearny, New Jersey by the Federal Shipbuilding and Drydock Company in November 1942, launched in February 1943, and commissioned in April with Lieutenant Commander Henry S. Wygant in command. Supporting a crew complement of 208, Turner 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.
Turner received anti-submarine warfare training off the coast of Maine, conducted a training cruise with aircraft carrier Bunker Hill out of New York, and began her wartime service on a trans-Atlantic escort mission in June 1943. During this deployment, Turner first sailed with the convoy to Norfolk, Virginia, and then to Casablanca where she arrived in mid-July. Turner returned to New York in August, protected a convoy en-route to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and then accompanied HMS Victorious to Norfolk, before she resumed training at Casco Bay, Maine.
Turner embarked on a trans-Atlantic voyage in September, and while on convoy duty in the Mediterranean, pursued a German submarine. During this assault, several depth charges rolled off the vessel, and Turner was rocked by the explosions which disabled her radar and sound-sensing capabilities. Turner regained power within 15 minutes and resumed pursuit the enemy submarine, but never proved that the submarine had been sunk.
Turner returned to Norfolk once again in late October, and then to New York in early November. She conducted anti-submarine patrols off the coast of Maine, and then embarked on another trans-Atlantic convoy escort mission in late November. In January 1944, Turner returned to the United States and anchored off Ambrose Light off New York. Several explosions occurred inside the ship the following morning, and a final explosion caused Turner to capsize and sink, resulting in the loss of 15 officers and 123 crew members. Turner was struck from the Navy list in April 1944.
Asbestos Risk on the USS Turner (DD-648)
Turner used asbestos-containing materials as insulation for its boilers and steam pipes. Engineering spaces were fireproofed and insulated with asbestos products, as were galleys and crew quarters. Because asbestos was so widely used on the ship, most of her crew was exposed to the mineral. Engineers, machinists, electricians and sailors assigned to damage control often had the most severe exposure, but no level of exposure was safe.
More Navy veterans suffer from asbestos-related injuries than veterans of any other armed service. Service in the U.S. Navy, particularly on ships built before 1980, is a significant risk factor for mesothelioma. The sailors that survived Turner’s sinking may still have been at risk long after the ship went down. Servicemen harmed by asbestos on naval vessels can often obtain compensation for their injury from the companies that made the asbestos products on board.Sources
Haze Gray & Underway. Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships. DD-648.
http://www.hazegray.org/danfs/destroy/dd648txt.htm) Retrieved 31 January 2011.
NavSource Naval History. USS Turner (DD-648).
http://www.navsource.org/archives/05/648.htm) Retrieved 31 January 2011.