U.S.S. Barney DDG-6 (Guided Missile Destroyer Charles F. Adams Class)

The history of the U.S.S. Barney, known to her crews as “The Grey Ghost” and by her radio call, Bandmaster.

Named for Joshua Barney, a famed and early United States Commodore. Barney (born in 1759) served gallantly, first in the Revolutionary War, and then again throughout the War of 1812. Commodore Barney served on the famed Wasp, and then captured his own vessel….turning her into a privateer to attack the British. Captured and taken to an English prison, Barney escaped and rejoined the US Navy. As with her namesake, there has not been another U.S.S. Barney.

Launched finally for her shakedown cruise on New Year’s Day, 1963, Naval planning was becoming crucial in facing Cold War threats, from Cuba through Indochina. The planning for the Barney had taken six years to evolve, which changed her designation (she was originally DD-956) and design….which led to extensive refits during the U.S.S. Barney’s service over four decades. But it wasn’t, unfortunately, until the end of her initial decade that the Navy changed asbestos safety policies. Ironically, as the Cold war heated up, and the US Navy finally addressed indiscriminate asbestos exposure, the Soviet Union finally accelerated its own use of asbestos.

Construction

The U.S.S. Barney had her keel laid by New York Shipbuilding in 1957, which had been one of America’s most successful shipyards. After WWII, however, the shipyard suffered from lost contracts. By the time of finishing the Barney in 1960, New York Shipbuilding’s biggest days were behind her. As the years went by, it also became apparent how many common industry practices of those times had included dangerous exposure to asbestos, in all phases of ship construction, repair, operation, and maintenance.

Interestingly, although launched in 1960, the U.S.S. Barney was not commissioned until August 1962.

Repairs and Upgrades

The tasks of the Barney were complicated, from her initial missile firing abilities to anti-sub exercises with the French navy. Decades later, experts have identified these common times of emergency repairs as possible times of asbestos exposure.

For seven months in 1967, the Barney’s crew worked off of North and South Viet Nam. Though not taking a direct hit, a crew member was hit by enemy shrapnel. By the end of her service in Viet Nam, refits were becoming more common to missile destroyers like the U.S.S. Barney. Marine engineering experts have pointed out the risks to those working to keep outdated vessels modernized, frequently without preventing asbestos-related injuries. The last major refitting of the Barney came during the 1970s, with the costly “New Threat Upgrade” system. It still remains debated, in removing and replacing the miles of cable used in a vessel such as the Barney, whether any concern about asbestos risks to the crew and civilian workers guided these refits. The U.S.S. Barney DDG-6 had a complete overhaul at the Philadelphia Naval Yard in 1975.

Asbestos Risks On the U.S.S. Barney (DDG-6)

In addition to inherent asbestos uses involved in upgrading this era of the Charles F. Adams-vessel class, modifications required for the increasingly sophisticated Cold War also caused more potential risks of working with asbestos. In 1972, the process of replacing the Barney’s entire fuel system was begun. Experts have noted one of the most common places for asbestos exposure in older Naval vessels was in the engine room. Asbestos was used in order to insulate crewmembers from the fire dangers associated with high temperatures. The Barney’s fuel system conversion lasted for almost six months, into the spring of 1973.

The Barney was struck from Navy rolls in 1992. Metro Machine bought the hulk of the vessel, and she was broken up in Philadelphia. The awareness of the dangers of asbestos eventually contributed to safer shipbuilding practices. Where scrapping was once accomplished within months, the Barney and any asbestos aboard her was not finally (and more safely) removed and scrapped until 2006.

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