U.S.S. Dyess (DD 880)
Named for a US Marine recipient of the Medal of Honor, U.S.S. Dyess was a Gearing class destroyer built by Consolidated Steel Corporation at Orange, Texas. Launched in 1945 it was commissioned into the Navy in May of that year.
At the time of its design, the main duties of a destroyer were antisubmarine operations and providing screening to capital ships, the battleships, cruisers and aircraft carriers. In May of 1945, the Navy was experiencing heavy casualties caused by airborne kamikaze attacks. The need for advanced radar pickets, operating at a greater distance from the carrier groups was evident. Because of their speed, destroyers were deemed to be suitable platforms. Accordingly, after completing its acceptance trials, Dyess was converted to a radar picket destroyer, re-designated DDR 880.
The conversion took the rest of the year, not being completed until after Japanese surrender. Dyess remained in the Atlantic for most of the early part of its career, conducting peacetime exercises, training operations and anti-submarine operations. Dyess participated in the naval quarantine during the Cuban Missile Crisis.
Dyess transited to the Pacific in 1966, and operated in the Gulf of Tonkin and Mekong Delta, providing search and rescue support and gunfire support of South Vietnamese troops, bombarding Viet Cong positions. Dyess returned home via the Indian Ocean and the Suez Canal, circumnavigating the globe.
The Arab-Israeli war in 1967 found Dyess in mid-eastern waters, with other units of the Mediterranean fleet, protecting American interests and prepared to intervene to evacuate American citizens if necessary.
For the remainder of its career, Dyess operated throughout the Atlantic and Mediterranean, the Black Sea and the Persian Gulf. As it was reassigned to different commands its homeport changed, Brooklyn, Newport, Norfolk, and Charleston were all stops it called home at various times in its career, as were others. Its primary duties were training, support of anti-submarine warfare, screening of other ships and goodwill visits and diplomatic operations.
Dyess was finally decommissioned in February 1980. It was broken up and sold for spare parts to Greece in 1981.
Asbestos Exposure on U.S.S. Dyess
Like all destroyers, Dyess was built to be fast. The hull was long and narrow, four boilers, steam turbines, and two shafts had to be crammed into it, along with all the supporting equipment, weapons and living spaces, storerooms, evaporators, and repair spaces. All contained asbestos.
At the time it was built, Consolidated Steel used asbestos insulation to wrap pipes, and as packing for boilers. Asbestos was used abundantly in bulkheads and overheads, as well as floor tiles, and in fire retardant blankets used to protect the vessel from the spread of fire. Although maintenance on the ship’s boilers may have increased the risk of asbestos exposure the nature of a destroyer’s design would ensure the potential of asbestos dust and fibers in every space of the ship.
Serious asbestos abatement operations did not begin until the mid to late 1970s. Older ships set for decommissioning were not considered for the abatement effort. Little, if anything was done to remove the threat of asbestos exposure during Dyess’s long service.