USS Chevalier DD-451 (1942-1943)
The USS Chevalier was constructed in Bath, Maine. A Fletcher-class destroyer weighing 2,050 tons, it was put into commission in July of 1942. The Fletcher-class of destroyer was built because of dissatisfaction with earlier destroyer classes. 175 were built in total, more than any other destroyer class.
Action in World War II
The USS Chevalier did its required shakedown, and from October until December of 1942 was an escort for convoys in the Atlantic. It was then deployed to the South Pacific, and finally got to its base there in January of 1943. At the end of that month, it participated in one of the last battles in the Guadalcanal Campaign, screening for aircraft carriers, cruisers and destroyers.
The Central Solomons Campaign started in May of 1943. The USS Chevalier was required to place mines in the Kula Gulf and in Blacklett Strait. These mines ended up sinking three destroyers from Japan. In May and July of that year, it attacked enemy positions on New Georgia and on Kolombangara.
While trying to recover the USS Strong’s crew after the Strong was torpedoed, it sustained damage. For almost the rest of the month, the USS Chevalier needed repairs. Its next deployment was in Vella Lavella, where it helped with landing efforts in the middle of August 1943. It also had a brief battle with destroyers and other smaller vessel from Japan on August 18th.
In September, the USS Chevalier made a brief side-trip to help a convoy get safely to Australia. It got back home in October. At this time, Japanese troops were trying desperately to get troops out of Vella Lavella. Three destroyers, including the USS Chevalier, took on six destroyers from Japan on the 6th of October. This battle, called the Battle of Vella Lavella, resulted in the sinking of one Japanese destroyer and much damage to two of the three United States destroyers. With multiple collisions causing damage, and torpedoes having blow off its bow, The Chevalier could not be saved. Its crew was saved and it was sunken by the USS LaVallette.
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.