U.S.S. Buck DD-761

U.S.S. Buck, DD-761, was the third US Navy vessel named for James Buck, a Civil War recipient of the Medal of Honor. (The second U.S.S. Buck was sunk by a German submarine in 1943) Buck was built by Bethlehem Steel and launched at San Francisco in March 1945, commissioning in June 1946. After initial shakedown operations off the west coast, Buck operated throughout the Pacific, conducting peacetime cruises and reserve training, until 1950.

In late 1950, Buck joined United Nations operations off Korea, escorting carrier forces and performing shore bombardments in support of ground forces. Buck was severely damaged in a collision with U.S.S. John W. Thomason, her sister ship, and was forced to return to the United States for repairs, returning to Korean waters in the spring of 1951. She operated there until July before returning to the west coast.

Buck returned to combat operations off Korea the following year, conducting offshore operations in support of ground troops and sea rescue searches for downed pilots. Buck provided shore bombardment of North Korean gun positions and troop concentrations. Buck was awarded six battle stars for services during the Korean conflict.

Throughout the 1950s, Buck made at least five cruises to the Orient, performing midshipman training, goodwill ambassador cruises and “show the flag” missions. A gunnery accident in 1956 caused serious damage; the resulting fire and ruptured piping systems were repaired by the ship’s crew, allowing the damaged vessel to return to port safely.

Throughout the fifties and early sixties, Buck operated in the Pacific, supporting carrier task forces and conducting anti-submarine operations, the main duties of a modern destroyer. In 1963 Buck was equipped with the DASH system, deploying two remotely controlled drone helicopters. Buck was the first destroyer to be so equipped.

Buck operated off the coast of Vietnam during her thirteenth, fourteenth and fifteenth, (and final) deployments to the far east, patrolling the Gulf of Tonkin and Yankee Station in support of US carrier operations.

Buck was transferred to the reserve fleet I July 1971, having served her entire career in Pacific waters. In 1973 Buck was transferred to the Brazilian Navy. Renamed CT Alagoas, the ship served the Brazilian fleet until 1995, when it was sold for scrap.

During the time of Buck’s design and construction, lessons being learned in the Pacific war dominated the thinking of her builders. A destroyer’s strongest defense against air or submarine attack was its speed. Ships engaging the enemy in the Pacific were finding the greatest threat to a vessels survival was fire. The ability to control and extinguish shipboard fires quickly was paramount. Fire resistant materials were used throughout all ships, particularly in engine spaces and insulation of seawater and potable water piping.

Asbestos was used to wrap pipes, line bulkheads, and cover decks. Fire curtains were made from asbestos, as were boiler liners. Asbestos wrapped pipes snaked through the ship’s living spaces and sleeping areas, often poorly ventilated. The vibrations of normal ship operations often caused flaking and release of dust into the air.

Crew members who were aboard during Buck’s shipyard overhauls were likely to have been exposed to asbestos released into the air as piping systems were modernized or simply inspected, which often require the removal of insulation.

U.S.S. Buck’s entire service life for the US Navy preceded the ban on asbestos materials.

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