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USS Zellars (DD-777)

The USS Zellars (DD-777) served in the U.S. Navy for over two and a half decades in the mid-20th century. She was named for Lieutenant Thomas Edward Zellars who was killed during gunnery practice at San Pedro, California. Zellars was a member of the Allen M. Sumner class of naval ships.

Construction

Zellars was laid down at Seattle, Washington by the Todd Pacific Shipyards Corporation in December 1943, launched in July 1944, and commissioned in October with Commander Blinn Van Mater in command. Carrying a crew of 336, Zellars was armed with ten 21-inch torpedo tubes, eleven 20-millimeter anti-aircraft guns, six five-inch anti-aircraft guns, and twelve 40-millimeter anti-aircraft guns.

Naval History

Zellars underwent shakedown training along the west coast and completed training at Pearl Harbor in mid-March 1945 before serving with the Okinawa invasion force as part of Task Group 54.3. The destroyer provided the force with anti-submarine and anti-aircraft protection, and provided screening and fire support services after the assault. In early April, Zellars was struck by a kamikaze plane, causing extensive damage, and was repaired at Terminal Island, California. The war ended during this time, and Zellars sailed to San Diego in September, and then New York in October.

Zellars escorted Franklin D. Roosevelt to Brazil in January and February 1946, served in Pensacola, Florida until April, and operated as a training vessel that summer. The destroyer was then assigned to the Submarine Force, Atlantic Fleet in October, and then operated along the mid-Atlantic and New England Coasts from mid-March until late July 1947. From July to December, Zellars sailed to England and then the Mediterranean, before returning to Boston for overhaul. Following a brief tour of duty with the 6th Fleet, Zellars returned to Norfolk, Virginia to operate with the 2nd Fleet for almost two years.

Zellars sailed for Korea in October 1950 and operated in the combat zone there for nine months. She was then assigned to anti-submarine warfare exercises in the Atlantic beginning in July 1951. Zellars conducted five cruises to Europe and the Mediterranean over the next eight years, alternated with routine exercises in the western Atlantic and the Caribbean. The destroyer received a FRAM Mark II overhaul in late 1959 at Norfolk Naval Shipyard, and then served several more tours of the Mediterranean between 1960 and 1969. Zellars was assigned to training naval reserves at New York in November, was decommissioned in March 1971, and then transferred to Iran as Babr, remaining in service there until 1994.

Asbestos Risk on the USS Zellars (DD-777)

Zellars used asbestos insulation in her engineering sections and throughout the craft. The versatile mineral was also used to fireproof many systems and areas. Asbestos packing was used in her pumps and valves, and gaskets made from asbestos were used all over the ship. Nearly every compartment aboard Zellars used asbestos is some form.

The kamikaze hit sustained by Zellars increased the asbestos risk to her crew. Damage to asbestos insulation from the impact and resulting fires would have caused clouds of asbestos fibers to fill the air. The immediate exposure to contaminated air and subsequent exposure during cleanup and repair efforts would have far exceeded normal levels. While any exposure is dangerous, elevated exposure is more likely to cause mesothelioma.

Sources

Sources

Haze Gray & Underway. Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships. DD-777.
http://www.hazegray.org/danfs/destroy/dd777txt.htm

NavSource Naval History. USS Zellars (DD-777).
http://www.navsource.org/archives/05/777.htm

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