The USS Waldron (DD-699) served in the U.S. Navy for nearly three decades during the middle of the 20th century. She was named for John C. Waldron, a U.S. Navy officer during the first half of the 20th century. Waldron was built as an Allen M. Sumner-class ship.
Waldron was laid down in Kearny, New Jersey by Federal Shipbuilding in November 1943. She was launched in March 1944 and commissioned in June 1944, with Commander George E. Peckham at the helm. Waldron carried a crew of 336 and had a cruising speed of 36.5 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.
Waldron began her service in the Pacific at the end of 1944. Upon arrival, she was assigned to a fleet of fast carriers. Her duties found her involved in the assaults on Luzon and, later, Hainan Island. In February 1945, she supported the strike on Iwo Jima. It was during this engagement that she successfully rammed an enemy picket boat, cutting it neatly in two. After a brief period of repair, she quickly rejoined the fray in time to support the Okinawa campaign and, following the Japanese surrender, patrol the coastline as part of the postwar effort. She returned to the U.S. in February 1946.
The following years found Waldron patrolling the east coast of the U.S. and making various peacetime voyages across the globe. She was decommissioned in 1950 and placed on reserve—but not for long. Less than six weeks after she was berthed, tensions in Korea began to explode, and Waldron was quickly recommissioned. After another stint in the Mediterranean, she was dispatched to the Pacific in late 1953.
The remainder of the 1950s and the start of the 1960s included additional peacetime patrols and a fleet rehabilitation and modernization (FRAM) overhaul. In 1967, Waldron was again dispatched to a war zone: this time to Vietnam. She returned to the U.S. in January 1968 and resumed patrols along the east coast and voyages to the Mediterranean. In 1970, she was decommissioned for a second time, and in 1973, she was transferred to Colombia and renamed Santander. She was eventually broken up and sold for scrap.
Asbestos Risk on the USS Waldron (DD-699)
Almost every section of Waldron contained asbestos. Some sections deployed asbestos products more heavily than did others, especially engineering areas. Sections with no engineering function were contaminated by pumps and valves packed with asbestos, and by asbestos gaskets, cements and putties. Every sailor that served on Waldron risked exposure to this dangerous mineral. Inhaling asbestos fibers can eventually lead to malignant mesothelioma.
Also at risk were shipyard workers that built and overhauled Waldron. Removing asbestos products that had long been in service could cause tiny fibers to break free and swirl into the air. This airborne asbestos also posed a secondhand risk to the families of shipyard workers, as the fibers could cling to clothes and be carried home. Because there is no safe level of asbestos exposure, even this secondary contact often lead to asbestos cancer.Sources
Haze Gray & Underway. Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships. DD-699.
NavSource Naval History, USS Waldron (DD-699).