Constructed in 1945 at Orange, Texas, the 2,425-ton USS Basilone was a Gearing-class destroyer was laid less than two months before the surrender of Japan and the end of World War II. The destroyer was named after Gunnery Sergeant John Basilone, who received the Medal of Honor for his heroism during the Guadalcanal campaign. Due to financial cutbacks after the war, construction was suspended and she was towed into Quincy, Massachusetts.
Here, the USS Basilone was completed with a modified design meant to optimize anti-submarine performance during warfare. The original guns and torpedo tubes were removed and replaced with new weapons, including the ABLE rocket launcher and other newly designed anti-submarine weapons. Hedgehog spigot mortar mounts were also installed. January 1948, after the modification was complete, the USS Basilone was redesignated DDE-824. The Navy commissioned the Basilone in July 1949.
USS Basilone began her operations in the Caribbean and western Atlantic as part of the Atlantic Fleet. These operations alternated with deployments to the Mediterranean and less frequent ventures to northern European seas. The Basilone was deployed to the Mediterranean at the time of the Suez Canal crisis of 1956, as well as the 1958 intervention in Lebanon.
Action in the Cold War
In August 1962, the USS Basilone was redesignated DD-824. Throughout October and November 1962, the USS Basilone aided the naval blockade against Cuba, which was the U.S. response to Soviet missiles on the island nation.
The Basilone was again extensively modernized in July 1963 at the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard. After the modernization was completed, the Basilone became FRAM I destroyer. Complete with a new superstructure, this gave her the capability of supporting drone anti-submarine helicopters and a new eight-cell launcher for the ASROC anti-submarine rocket. From 1964-1977 the Basilone completed eight tours of duty into the Mediterranean with the Sixth Fleet. She travelled around the world twice and participated in military combat operations off the coast of Vietnam.
The Basilone was steam powered, and as a result of boiler problems, the vessel lost several crew members to a boiler explosion February 5, 1973. After six months of repair work, the Basilone again set sail, remaining active until November 1977.
After the war
The 1977 Mediterranean cruise was her last and on her return she was decommissioned and removed from the Navy Vessel Register. The USS Basilone was then used as a military practice target and was sunk off the coast of Florida April 9, 1982.
Asbestos in Navy Ships
Although an essential component of the naval fleet, especially during World War II, naval destroyers also pose a lasting health risk to soldiers serving on them. Unfortunately, products containing asbestos were common, especially on older ships, because of the material’s high resistance to heat and fire. Despite its value as an insulator, asbestos fiber intake can lead to several serious health consequences, including mesothelioma, a devastating cancer without cure. Current and former military personnel who came into contact with these ships should seek immediate medical attention in order to detect possible health consequences associated with asbestos exposure.