The USS Clemson was launched from the Newport News Shipyard in Virginia in September of 1918 and commissioned for active service in December 1919. The USS Clemson first served along the East Coast and in waters surrounding Cuba until it returned to the Norfolk Navy Yard in Virginia and placed on reserve status in June 1920. It spent time in Charleston and in Boston, finally docking at the Philadelphia Navy Yard where it was decommissioned on June 30, 1922.
Action in World War II
Still intact and fit for service in November 1939, the USS Clemson was reclassified and converted to a small aircraft tender. After being re-commissioned in 1940, the ship was ordered to the Atlantic Fleet Scouting Force based in Norfolk. From the late summer of 1940 through the spring of 1943, the USS Clemson shuttled between the Caribbean Sea, the Galapagos Islands, and Brazilian waters. It tended patrol planes and provided necessary support services for aircraft patrols over neutral waters. The USS Clemson returned to Norfolk after these tours and was reconverted to a destroyer, reclassified as DD-186 in December 1943.
In May 1943, the USS Clemson joined a naval hunter-killer group in the company of the USS Bogue. During eight patrols with that group, the Clemson hunted and sank eight German submarines. Having distinguished itself, the ship was retrofitted in New York in 1944, after which it spent three months escorting a convoy of ships to Casablanca and back without memorable incident.
In March 1944, the USS Clemson was re-designated yet again, this time as a high speed transport ship at the Charleston Navy Yard. After leaving Charleston on May 1, the USS Clemson reached Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, twenty-four days later to join the Underwater Demolition Team 6 as the team’s mother ship. The Clemson participated in heavy combat action, preparing beaches for Underwater Demolition Team 6 on islands in the Pacific at Saipan, Guam, Peleliu, Leyte, and Lingayen Gulf, and in the Philippines. It fought off a Japanese air attack and escorted convoys through Far East waters.
July 17, 1945 found the USS Clemson in San Pedro, California where it was undergoing conversion and was re-designated DD-186. After earning a Presidential Unit Citation and nine battle stars, it was decommissioned in October 1945 and finally sold in November 1946.
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.