The USS Breese, named for Captain Kidder Breese, was commissioned October 23, 1918. This Wickes-class destroyer’s first commander was Lieutenant J.B. Smith. The ship had a displacement of 1,213.1 tons and was constructed by the Newport News Shipbuilding and Dry Dock Company of Newport News, Virginia.
Action in World War I
Her first assignment was to escort the Atlantic fleet at the end of World War I. When she returned to Norfolk Virginia, she was assigned to Division 12 of the Destroyer Atlantic Fleet to serve in the waters near Cuba. In July 1919, the division was sent to San Diego for a year. From late 1920 to mid 1922 she was involved in maneuvers in the Pacific. She was then decommissioned on June 17, 1922.
After the war
Breese was reclassified as a DM-18 light minelayer at the beginning of 1931. After her overhaul, she returned to San Diego for testing before being sent to Pearl Harbor. In Hawaii she participated in training exercises, as a target and station ship with submarine divisions. In June 1937, Breese returned to San Diego and was decommissioned for a second time in November 1937.
Breese was recommissioned on September 25, 1939 and assigned to Mine Division 5 Battle Force. She was sent to the Puget Sound Navy Yard as a base for her patrols off of the Northwest coast. In 1940 Breese cruised to Alaska for an inspection trip. After being sent back to San Francisco she was sent to Hawaii in December of 1940.
Action in World War II
For the next year she participated in training exercises around Hawaii. Although present in Pearl Harbor when the Japanese attacked, firing her guns at the Japanese onslaught, she was spared damage in the attack. She even successfully sank a Japanese midget submarine and damaged several planes.
Breese then operated in the Central Pacific until October of 1944. She was then sent westward to the islands of the Marianas and Philippines, where she patrolled the area and was a mine layer. Breese acted as a minesweeper in the Pacific and East China Sea until September of 1945.
After the war
Two months later, Breese set sail for the United States. She arrived on the west coast, crossed the Panama Canal, and arrived in New York on December 13, 1945. The next month she was decommissioned and finally sold for scrap in May of 1946.
The Breese was awarded ten battle stars for her heroic World War II service, suffering no personnel casualties despite her heavy involvement in several naval conflicts.
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.