USS Converse DD-509 (1942-1959)

The second ship to be named after George Albert Converse, the USS Converse, was launched on August 30, 1942 by Bath Iron Works Corporation, in Bath, Maine and commissioned on November 20, 1942 with Commander D. C. E. Hamberger in command.

Action in World War II

After training at Pearl Harbor and Cuba, the Converse sailed to Noumea in 1943, where it escorted convoys moving through Guadalcanal for the remainder of the summer. In autumn of that year, it joined Destroyer Squadron 23, participating in a number of operations in the northern Solomon Islands. Together they sank a Japanese cruiser and an enemy destroyer, forcing the remaining targets to retreat. It won a Presidential Unit Citation for its service.

While continuing bombardments and escort duty, the Converse was able to sink a number of enemy ships while still emerging relatively unscathed. However, in one particular battle, six waves of Japanese bombers descended on the vessel, with one attack coming close enough to result in an electrical failure. With radar gone and damages done, it was forced to dock at Sydney, Australia for repairs. By January of 1944, it was able to rejoin its squadron and resume patrol and bombardment of enemy targets near the northern part of the Solomon Islands.

The Converse continued to support air-strike operations against the Japanese for most of the year in the Bonins and the Marianas. On June 19th, the Japanese fleet challenged the Americans through both air and sea, resulting in a two-day skirmish that ended with the sinking of 3 Japanese aircraft carriers and the loss of many Japanese planes and pilots. The Converse then embarked for Guam to assist in shore bombardment activities before sailing for Mare Island on August 4, 1944.

The destroyer eventually returned to action three months later, joining a screen of carriers protecting the convoy routes to Leyte. It was performing one such escort when it came under attack by Japanese kamikaze planes. The Converse fired on the planes to drive them off while rescuing 266 survivors from another ship. Actions such as these led to the Converse receiving 11 battle stars for its WWII service.

After the War

Following an overhaul in Brooklyn, the Converse was decommissioned and put in reserve at Charleston, South Carolina in April of 1946. On July 1, 1959 it was transferred to Spain, where it now serves as the Almirante Vaides.

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.