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USS Wadsworth (DD-516)

The USS Wadsworth (DD-516) served in the U.S. Navy for approximately three years during the first half of the 20th century. She was named for Alexander Scammel Wadsworth, who served with the U.S. Navy during the War of 1812. Wadsworth was built as a Fletcher-class ship.

Construction

Wadsworth was laid down in Bath, Maine by Bath Iron Works in August 1942. She was launched in January 1943 and commissioned in March 1943, with Lieutenant Commander John F. Walker at the helm. Wadsworth carried a crew of 273 and had a cruising speed of 38 knots. She was armed with five five-inch anti-aircraft guns, four one and one-tenth-inch anti-aircraft guns, four 20-millimeter anti-aircraft guns, and ten 21-inch torpedo tubes.

Naval History

Wadsworth joined the Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbor in August 1943. Her first major engagement came later that month, when she was sent to hunt for an enemy submarine that had damaged an American tanker. She successfully located the sub and dropped seven patterns of depth charges.

Wadsworth’s next major engagement happened in November, when she was part of a minesweeping force at Empress Augusta Bay that was attacked by six enemy planes. While there were no direct hits on the vessel, two men were killed and another nine wounded by spray from a bomb that exploded near the ship. Wadsworth remained in the Bougainville area through the end of 1943.

1944 saw Wadsworth involved in a number of actions in the area of the Solomons and Samoa. In June, she participated in the “Great Marianas Turkey Shoot,” the battle that is credited with putting a nail in the coffin of the Japanese Navy, as it lost 92 percent of its carrier planes and 72 percent of its float planes—as well as 60 land-based bombers.

In 1945, Wadsworth obliterated a small group of Japanese troops attempting to destroy American airplanes on the ground. She also participated at Iwo Jima and Okinawa. She later spent time in Japanese waters before returning the U.S. in late 1945.

Wadsworth was decommissioned in 1946 and placed on reserve. In 1959, she was transferred to West Germany and re-christened Z-3. In 1980 she was again transferred, this time to Greece, and renamed Nearchos. She was stricken in 1991.

Asbestos Risk on the USS Wadsworth (DD-516)

Wadsworth used asbestos-containing material in most sections, in ship’s machinery and as an insulating cover for steam pipes. The engineering areas employed asbestos in larger amounts, where it was used to fireproof the boilers and to cover parts of the ship's motors or steam turbines. The heavy wear-and-tear on engine room asbestos parts often caused such areas to contain exceptionally dangerous levels of asbestos dust. Greater exposure to airborne asbestos increases a person's risk of developing mesothelioma.

Navy veterans are diagnosed with asbestos cancer more than servicemen of any other armed service. The close quarters of ship life, large number of mechanical systems on board, and stringent fireproofing requirements all contributed to a consistently high level of asbestos exposure for many sailors. The risk was even greater on ships that saw combat, as Wadsworth did. Today, there are often legal solutions for those that were harmed by asbestos while serving in the U.S. Navy.

Sources

Sources

Haze Gray & Underway. Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships. DD-516.
http://www.hazegray.org/danfs/destroy/dd516txt.htm

NavSource Naval History, USS Wadsworth (DD-516).
http://www.navsource.org/archives/05/516.htm

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