The USS Wilkinson (DD-930) remained on the Navy list for two decades in the mid-20th century. She was named for Admiral Theodore Stark Wilkinson who commanded Battleship Division 2 and the Third Amphibious Force during World War II. Wilkinson was laid down as a Mitscher-class destroyer.
Wilkinson was laid down at Quincy, Massachusetts by the Bethlehem Steel Corporation in February 1950, reclassified as destroyer leader DL-5 in February 1951, launched in April 1952, and commissioned in July 1954 with Commander Donald G. Dockum in command. Carrying a crew of 360, Wilkinson was armed with two five-inch rapid fire guns, four three-inch rapid fire guns, eight 20-millimeter anti-submarine weapons systems, four 21-inch torpedo tubes, and one depth charge rack.
Wilkinson sailed from Newport, Rhode Island to embark on an inspection tour with the Atlantic Fleet in 1955, and then became flagship of Commander, Destroyer Flotilla 2, after which she took part in anti-submarine warfare exercises for the next three months. A training cruise in July took Wilkinson to Scotland, Denmark, and Cuba. The vessel then conducted air defense exercises in the Gulf of Mexico in October. Wilkinson returned to Newport in November and then reported to the Boston Naval Shipyard for overhaul.
Wilkinson reported for duty with the Pacific Fleet in July 1956 and attained flagship status with Destroyer Squadron 17. She operated out of San Diego between August 1956 and March 1957 and then spent March and April in Alaska. In January 1959, the destroyer leader cruised to the western Pacific, returned home in March, and then sailed back to the Far East to join the Taiwan Strait patrol until March 1960.
Wilkinson was at Long Beach Naval Shipyard from March 1960 to August 1960 and sailed for Pearl Harbor and then the South China Sea in 1961. Following installation of sonar equipment at Long Beach, Wilkinson then tested the new system at Puget Sound, Washington in 1962, and returned to the Atlantic Fleet in June 1963. Sonar tests continued along the coast, in the Gulf of Mexico, and the Caribbean.
Wilkinson rescued survivors of a fire on Norwegian freighter Viking Princess in April 1966, and after operating off Argentina in January and February 1967, received another upgrade at the Bethlehem Steel Shipyard in Massachusetts. Additional sonar tests were conducted at Newport in 1968 and in Narragansett Bay in 1969. Wilkinson was then decommissioned in December, was struck from the Navy list in May 1974, and sold for scrap to Luria Brothers in 1975.
Asbestos Risk on the USS Wilkinson (DD-930)
As asbestos was used in many different applications, the dangerous fibers were found in nearly every corridor and compartment on Wilkinson. The highest concentrations of asbestos insulation were in engineering spaces, but many other compartments were also insulated with the fireproof material. Asbestos was used throughout Wilkinson because it was so versatile: it was used in cement, interior paint, and even paste.
The sailors at greatest risk from asbestos exposure were those that encountered it in their daily routines. Engineers, electricians, welders, and machinists on Wilkinson likely had the greatest occupational exposure. Unfortunately, there is no safe level of asbestos exposure. Even crewmen that performed non-mechanical tasks have been diagnosed with mesothelioma resulting from their shipboard asbestos exposure.Sources