USS Wilkes (DD-67) was a Sampson-class destroyer in the US Navy during World War I. She was the second Navy vessel to be named in honor of Commodore Charles Wilkes, a naval officer and explorer. Wilkes is best known for having lead the United States Exploring Expedition from 1838 through 1842 as well as for the part he played in the Trent Affair during the Civil War.
Wilkes was laid down by the William Cramp & Sons Ship & Engine Building Company in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on March 11, 1915. Sponsored by Miss Carrie McIver Wilkes, she was launched on May 18, 1916. Lieutenant Commander Julius F. Hellweg took command of Wilkes on November 10, 1916.
Prior to the United States’ entry into World War I, Wilkes conducted fleet maneuvers in Cuban waters before escorting the French cruiser Amiral Auge from Norfolk to New York. Two months later, she served in the screen that transported the first American troop convoy to Europe. After escorting her charges to Saint Nazaire, she headed to Portsmouth, England and then on to Queenstown, Ireland, which is where she stayed throughout the remainder of the war.
While stationed in Queenstown, Wilkes spent most of her time conducting antisubmarine patrols and escorting convoys to England. She was occasionally called upon to escort convoys into port at Saint Nazaire and Brest, France. As such, she spent many days at a time at sea and generally enjoyed only a few hours at a time in port to provision. Wilkes never engaged in combat with German U-boats, but she rescued 23 survivors after the British merchantman SS Purley was torpedoed on July 25, 1917.
Wilkes continued with her patrol and escort duties until after Christmas 1918. The day after Christmas, she headed for home and arrived in New York on January 7, 1919. She immediately underwent an overhaul, which took until May 1 to complete, and then served as a picket ship for the world’s first transatlantic flight. After completing these duties, Wilkes reentered New York harbor and resumed her peacetime operations along the Atlantic coast. Her duties ended on June 5, 1922 when she decommissioned at the Philadelphia Navy Yard.
Wilkes remained inactive for more than four years until she was turned over to the US Coast Guard to assist with the enforcement of Prohibition laws. She then became known as CG-25 as she patrolled the east coast for the next eight years. She was returned to the Navy on March 29, 1934. Five months after being returned to the Navy on March 29, 1934, she was sold for scrap under the terms of the London Treaty, which called for limitations on naval armaments.
Asbestos Risk on the USS Wilkes (DD-67)
The Wilkes used asbestos-containing products in and around her engines and engine room, in mess halls for fire prevention, and as insulation around pipes throughout the ship. All sailors that served aboard the USS Wilkes and shipbuilders that set her to sea or participated in her refitting or scrapping were put at risk of asbestos exposure. Anyone that handled damaged or worn asbestos products is at particular risk, as such products can easily loose dangerous asbestos fibers into the air when they are serviced or moved. Such fibers are nearly invisible and easily inhaled. Their minute size allows them to infiltrate the mesothelium, a lining of cells that protects and surrounds internal organs. Over the course of many years, these fibers can lead to asbestos diseases like malignant mesothelioma.
In her nearly 20 years of service, the USS Wilkes was home to many brave Navy sailors and Coast Guard seamen. If you or a loved one served aboard the Wilkes and was later diagnosed with mesothelioma, please fill out the form on this page for more information about the disease, treatment options, and how our experienced staff can help.Sources
Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships.
http://www.destroyers.org/DANFS/h-DD-67.htm Retrieved 14 December 2010