William Cramp and Sons Ship and Engine Building Company built the USS Bernadou in November 1918. She was a Wickes-class destroyer, named for Commander John Bernadou. The ship was launched from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, sponsored by Miss Cora Winslow Bernadou, the Commander’s sister. She was commissioned on May 19, 1919, with Lieutenant Commander L. G. Farley in control of operations.
Her first cruise was to Europe in the summer of 1919. She stayed along the east coast until her time out of commission, where she was kept at the Philadelphia Navy yard, beginning on July 1, 1922. In May of 1930, she rejoined the active duty vessels with Squadron 7, Scouting Force. She went to the sidelines again from September of 1936 and stayed there until October of 1939. She rejoined the active fleet with the Destroyer Division 6, Atlantic Squadron, serving in Neutrality Patrol for a short period of time.
Action in World War II
She helped move Marines to Iceland in July of 1941, where she spent most of her remaining time, until the fall of 1942, on the Newfoundland to Iceland convoy. She made one crossing to Great Britain in that time as well. On October 25, 1942, she headed to Norfolk, VA to prepare for the invasion of North Africa. She spent time there from November 8 to 11 of 1942.
On November 26, 1942, she returned to Boston, convoying troops until February 1943. In March, she steamed to Gibraltar, returning to Norfolk shortly thereafter. In May, she departed for Oran, Algeria, where she remained until December 1943. While there, she took part in the occupation of Sicily in July, the Salerno landings in September and escorted several Mediterranean convoys as well.
In December of 1943, she returned to the United States. She escorted two convoys to North Africa in February and June of 1944, eventually receiving easier runs between the east coast and the Caribbean. From October of 1944 until May 1945, she was an escort vessel and a plane guard on the east coast during exercises for carriers. She steamed into the Philadelphia Navy Yard in June of 1945 and never steamed out again. She was decommissioned in July and sold in November of that year.
She won a Presidential Unit Citation for her help landing assault troops inside the harbor of Safi, French Morocco. She also received the Presidential Unit Citation and five battle stars for her valor in World War II.
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.