U.S.S. Newell (DE/DER-322)

Newell was an Edsall-class destroyer escort. She served with the U.S. Navy in WWII and Viet Nam. In the 1950s, she was temporarily transferred to the U.S. Coast Guard. Upon her return to the Navy, she was converted to a radar picket ship and redesignated DER-322.

Construction

The destroyer escort was laid down by the Consolidated Steel Co. of Orange, TX on April 5, 1943. She entered service on October 30, 1943.

Service (as DE-322)

Newell joined her first Atlantic convoy in December 1943. This group was escorted without incident, but on her second trip, on April 20, 1944, her group came under attack by German aircraft. The destroyer escort claimed a kill, but the larger destroyer Lansdale was torpedoed and sunk. Newell sailed through her wreckage and assisted with the recovery of survivors. In the process, some of her sailors voluntarily went over her side to help wounded or weak sailors swim to rescue. On their way home, the convoy came under attack again. This time, two destroyer escorts were hit. Fechteler sank and Newell’s sister Menges lost power. Newell took her wounded sister in tow and assisted survivors from the other ship.

Newell escorted two more convoys to the Mediterranean without incident. In February 1945, she became a training ship at Norfolk. She continued this work after the Japanese Surrender and was ordered to Charleston, SC on October 20 for deactivation.

The ship was temporarily transferred to the U.S. Coast Guard in 1951, commissioning on July 20. She reported to Mare Island for conversion to Coast Guard standards. During this time, she was temporarily designated WDE-322. From April 27, 1952, she operated out of Pearl Harbor as a patrol and rescue cutter. She left coast guard service on March 31, 1954.

Service (as DER-322)

While still in reserve, Newell transferred back to the Navy. In 1957, she was upgraded with advanced radars and other detection gear. Reclassified as DER-322 (radar picket destroyer escort), she reentered active duty service on August 20, 1957 at Long Beach, CA. She transferred to Pearl Harbor and operated from there as an early warning ship along the Pacific Barrier. This 1,500-mile stretch of ocean extended from Midway Island in the Hawaiian chain to Alaska. It was through these waters that Japan had attacked Pearl Harbor, and the Navy believed that a Soviet assault on the west coast would pass through this area.

In the spring of 1960, Newell escorted president Eisehower’s flight to the Far East. On May 1, 1965, she became the last ship to operate on the Pacific Barrier. At Midway Island, the ship held ceremonies that officially decommissioned the area as a military responsibility. She then returned to Pearl Harbor and prepared for deployment to Viet Nam.

The destroyer escort arrived off Viet Nam in late May and took up position in the Mekong River Delta. There, she participated in “Market Time” marine interdiction missions, inspecting a total of 2,539 suspicious vessels. She ended her first tour “in country” on January 1, 1966. Newell conducted tours in Viet Nam until 1967. For the remainder of her career, she operated out of Vung Tau, close to the Mekong Delta. The veteran ship was released from her last tour on November 28.

Fate

She was preparing for another west Pacific deployment when she was ordered to Pearl Harbor for decommissioning. She left Naval service for the last time on September 21, 1968 and was struck from the Navy List just two days later. Newell was sold for scrap on December 15, 1971.

In Media

She was still in reserve at Pearl Harbor on January 22, 1969 when 20th Century Fox rented her hull for use in their new movie Tora Tora Tora, portraying the December 7, 1941 attack. Her diesel engines had been removed by this time, so her interiors were large enough to portray the battleships present at the event.

Risk of Asbestos Exposure

Newell was diesel powered, so her engines were not heavily insulated with asbestos. Asbestos was present in other materials used in shipbuilding at the time, such as vinyl deck tiles and fireproof suits sometimes worn by damage control personnel.

When damaged or worn, asbestos products break down into tiny fibers. Inhalation of these fibers is a proven cause of mesothelioma, a malignant lung cancer. While there is no cure for mesothelioma, treatments such as chemotherapy can be used to fight the disease. If you or someone you know served aboard Newell or worked on her in a shipyard and has contracted mesothelioma, please fill out the form at the bottom of this page to receive free information regarding your rights to compensation.

Resources/Further Reading

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