This Gleaves-class destroyer with a displacement of 2,060 tons, the USS Beatty DD-640, was built by the Charleston Navy Yard. She was commissioned May 7, 1942. Lieutenant Commander Frederick C. Stelter was the first commander of the Beatty.
Action in World War II
Following her shakedown, she ran some patrol duties around various areas until she headed for the Gulf of Mexico in the West Indies. Upon arriving, she joined Convoy NC-5. She then joined the Eberle and David and assisted in conducting an antisubmarine sweeps near Tobago Island.
In October 1942, the Beatty sailed for Hampton Roads. Upon arrival, she joined Task Group 34.10. This Southern Attack Group assembled for Operation Torch, put together in order to invade North Africa. After hearing the code words, “Play Ball,” she took her position along with the other shipsinvading North Africa. She then opened fire, which continued for ten minutes. Following this maneuver, she headed for the New York Navy Yard, where she underwent alterations as well as voyage repairs.
During the next few months, she covered convoys throughout the Atlantic. She then arrived at New York to undergo some voyage repairs. This was followed by her return to Hampton Roads in May. The Beatty then sailed for Algeria, where she would be an escort for the Convoy UGF-9. On June 25, 1943 she arrived at Mers-el-Kebir. Her assignment included patrolling, training, and escorting before she sailed for Sicily to participate in the “Cent” attack force for the invasion of Sicily.
Upon arrival, the crew of the Beatty saw antiaircraft fire in the skies over Sicily, with a number of planes succumbing to the shooting. The crew also saw a large fire burning. The vessel then anchored in her assigned zone and positioned for fire support. Within minutes the Beatty was prompted to begin firing. The ship and crew complied. Later, the Beatty saw enemy fire from fast aircraft strafing ground troops. She made some solid enemy hits, and then was struck by shell fragments on her main deck and port side.
The following day, the Beatty observed a number of heavy bombs and bombing raids continue at a brisk rate. She was then ordered to blast several targets ashore. The Beatty hurled 799 rounds at targets, greatly damaging enemy railroads, bridges, and highways. She moved southeast to await the formation of a convoy she would escort. The ship arrived in New York on August 3. After repairs, the destroyer returned to the Mediterranean, where she saw some light action.
In October, the Beatty screened a convoy to Bangor, Northern Ireland. There she was involved in violent enemy fire. A German plane closed to within 500 yards and dropped a torpedo on the Beatty. It struck the ship at frame 124, resulting in severe damage that caused the ship to take a 12-degree list to port after flooding. Finally, the Beatty broke in two and sank on November 6, 1943.
For her heroic World War II service, the USS Beatty received three battle stars.
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.