The USS Vogelgesang (DD-862) served in the U.S. Navy for three and a half decades during the middle of the 20th century. She was named for Carl Theodore Vogelgesang, a U.S. Navy officer during the Spanish-American War. Vogelgesang was built as a Gearing-class ship.
Vogelgesang was laid down in Staten Island, New York by Bethlehem Steel in August 1944. She was launched in January 1945 and commissioned in April 1945, with Commander O.W. Spahr at the helm. Vogelgesang 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.
Vogelgesang began her service in the Atlantic in 1945, participating in a variety of exercises and Mediterranean deployments over the course of her first decade at sea. In 1957, she sailed to Aden and Massawa along the Eritrean cost, and later that year, she called at ports in the Middle East. In the early 1960s, the destroyer provided support for NASA’s Project Mercury mission.
In 1962, Vogelgesang received her fleet rehabilitation and modernization (FRAM) upgrade. In the years that followed, the re-built ship participated in bi-national exercises with the Canadian Navy and supported the recovery effort for NASA’s Project Gemini. In 1966, Vogelgesang received her first war-time orders when she was deployed to the western Pacific as part of the operations in Vietnam. There, she provided anti-submarine defenses at the Gulf of Tonkin, offered artillery support by firing on targets along the shore, and served as a plane guard for airborne attacks.
After her stint supporting the action in Vietnam, Vogelgesang resumed a period of varied peacetime duties. She again sailed to the Mediterranean and participated in multi-national exercises with several South and Latin American navies. During the 1970s, the vessel was part of a fleet that intervened in the Syrian-Jordanian conflict, visited ports around the globe, and partnered with many different nations’ naval forces.
Vogelgesang was decommissioned and stricken from the Navy list in 1982. She was then transferred to Mexico, where she was renamed Quetzalcoatl. She was decommissioned by the Mexican Navy in 2002 and was sunk as an artificial reef several years later.
Asbestos Risk on the USS Vogelgesang (DD-862)
Vogelgesang’s engineering compartment contained a great abundance of asbestos, used to offset the enormous heat produced by her boilers and other machinery. The mineral was also used as insulation for steam pipes, in pumps and valves, and as a fireproofing additive for paints and adhesives. Even some ropes, wires, and hoses were fashioned from asbestos materials.
All crewmen and shipyard workers who labored on Vogelgesang were at risk for asbestos exposure. The Navy’s heavy reliance on asbestos as both insulation and fireproofing created an extremely dangerous and often toxic environment for sailors. Breathing asbestos contaminated air can lead to serious and often fatal diseases, including mesothelioma. There are often legal options for Navy veterans injured by maritime exposure to asbestos.Sources
Haze Gray & Underway. Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships. DD-862.
NavSource Naval History, USS Vogelgesang (DD-862).