The United States Navy launched the USS Breckinridge, a Wickes-class destroyer, on August 17, 1918. The Navy named the ship after Ensign Joseph Breckinridge, a young officer that lost his life in 1898 aboard the USS Cushing. The Navy commissioned the ship on February 27, 1919 with Commander Arthur L. Bristol in charge.

The Breckinridge joined the Atlantic fleet where the Navy used it as a test platform for new sonar devices up to 1922. It was decommissioned on June 30, 1922. The Navy then re-commissioned it in May 1930, where it joined Scouting Force United States in the Atlantic coast for two years and then late in 1932 it moved to the Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbor where the Breckenridge scouted for the Pacific Fleet.

In May of 1936, the Navy placed the destroyer in Training Squadron 10 where it operated along the East coast and in Cuban waters until September 1936, when the Navy decommissioned it once again.

Action in World War II

The war brought the Breckinridge back and it was re-commissioned again in September of 1939 and assigned to Division 66, Atlantic Squadron. There it served on the Neutrality Patrols against Germany. In December of 1940, the Navy reassigned the Breckinridge to the Inshore Patrol Station, Panama Canal Zone. After the declaration of war by the United States, the ship moved to Key West Florida where it performed both exercises and experiments.

Late in the war, in December 1943, the destroyer moved back to the Atlantic Fleet to perform escort and patrol duties. In January of 1944, while in the Atlantic, the Breckinridge sailed with Task Group 21.13, a hunter —killer group that attacked submarines, until late February. The destroyer then entered an overhaul period lasting till March 22, 1944.

In late March the destroyer joined Task Force 6 to escort ships across the Atlantic. In April German Planes attacked the convoy, damaging the Holder. In early May, the Breckinridge, undamaged, returned to Boston for more convoys. In 1945, after another overhaul, the ship commenced operations from February 10 to March 31, 1945 as the flagship of Destroyer Division 54.

Towards the end of the war, the Navy reclassified the Breckinridge as AG-112 and then assigned it to the Pacific Fleet. There it served with Carrier Division 12 and performed escort duties until it was decommissioned for the last time on November 30, 1945.

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.

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