The USS Bigelow DD-942 was a 2,800-ton (4,050 tons with a full load) Forrest Sherman-class destroyer first ordered on July 30, 1954. The ship was named after Water-tender First Class Elmer Bigelow, who was killed in action extinguishing magazine fire while serving on the Fletcher during an encounter with Japanese forces near the Philippines on February 14, 1945. Bigelow was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor.
The ship was built at the Bath Iron Works Corporation in Bath, Maine and laid down on July 6, 1955. Launched on February 2, 1957, the destroyer was officially commissioned on November 1, 1957. Mrs. Verna B. Perry, the mother of Elmer Bigelow, launched the ship in honor of her son.
Action in the Cold War
The Bigelow served as part of a Combined Task Group CTG 136.1.1 and was part of the blockade of Cuba during the Cuban Missile Crisis in October of 1962. The ship received the Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal for its involvement in the area from October 24, 1962 to November 21, 1962.
Action in the Vietnam War
The Bigelow went on to see extensive service in several of the conflicts during the Vietnam War and was a part of many prominent military engagements. The Bigelow served as a NASA recovery ship for the Gemini III and Mercury programs. While serving as a part of operations near Vietnam on April 20, 1967, six sailors were injured in an explosion in the gun mount.
After the war
The Bigelow was part of a test platform for the Phalanx CIWS in 1977. A mount was installed near to the aft radar gun director. During this time, the ship received upgrades and an overhaul. Glenn R. Brindel served as executive officer of the USS Bigelow from 1978 through 1980.
The Bigelow was officially decommissioned on November 5, 1982. The ship was sold for scrap to the Fore River Shipyard and to the Iron Works in Quincy, Massachusetts on December 11, 1982. However, the Fore River Shipyard went bankrupt and the Bigelow was resold to N.R. Acquisition Inc. of New York City by a Massachusetts state bankruptcy court. The ship was re-acquired by the U.S. Navy and was stricken on June 1, 1990. Sometime on or before April 2, 2003 it was sunk, presumably as a gunnery target.
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.