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U.S.S. Bristol DD 857 (Destroyer)

Bristol was the last ship of the Sumner class of destroyer, built by Bethlehem Steel Corporation in San Pedro, CA and commissioned in March of 1945. After shakedown operations, the ship steamed to Guam, where it was damaged in a collision with U.S.S. Ashtabula in August. By the time its repairs were completed the war was ended and Bristol assumed occupation duties in the Far East.

The following year Bristol reported for duty in the Atlantic where it remained, conducting cruises in European waters and off the east coast of the United States, until designation as a Reserve Training Ship, based in New Orleans.

Bristol next was assigned to Newport, RI, performing the routine duties of a destroyer in the North Atlantic, and completing a tour in the Mediterranean. A 1951 deployment to Korea resulted in the ship completing a world tour, and earned it two battle stars to add to the one earned in World War II.

As the Cold War tensions deepened, the role of destroyers evolved from that of the Second World War. Rather than serving the primary purpose of escorting surface ships to provide protection from air and submarine attacks, the destroyer became a hunter, often operating in conjunction with an attack submarine. Their primary mission became the detection and pursuit of enemy submarines. The responsibility for air defense shifted, to a large degree, to frigates and cruisers.

Accordingly, Bristol found itself being frequently modified and upgraded as new sonars and anti-submarine weapons were developed and obtained by the Navy. New tactics and the need to train and work with allied navies in the suppression of the growing Soviet submarine fleet occupied much of Bristol’s time, as did frequent service with the Sixth Fleet during the many crises in the mid-east.

Bristol was decommissioned in 1969, and transferred to the Taiwanese Navy the following month. It remained in Taiwanese service until scrapping in 1993.

Asbestos Exposure on U.S.S. Bristol

Bethlehem Steel, which built Bristol, used asbestos in hundreds of materials while constructing ships for the US Navy. Asbestos was so commonplace that shipyard workers often carried a piece of asbestos cloth to serve as a kneeling mat, protecting them from the hot steel decks.

Materials containing asbestos were used throughout the ship as thermal insulation and as fire protection. Pipes lagged with asbestos insulation were routed throughout the vessel, often sailors sleeping in a top bunk would have asbestos lagging inches from the, wrapped around steam pipes that ran below the deck of the compartment above.

Deteriorating or damaged asbestos, common in the harsh shipboard environment, would crumble, at which point asbestos fibers were released into the air and distributed freely throughout the ship by the ventilation system and on sailor’s clothing. The likelihood of asbestos exposure on Bristol would be high. Indeed, it would have been hard to avoid.

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