On the 13th of May in 1945, the USS George K. MacKenzie was launched by the Bath Iron Works in Bath, Maine. Commissioned in July of 1945 and sponsored by Donna Mackenzie (George MacKenzie’s daughter), she was commanded by Commander Alvin W. Slayden.
The George K. MacKenzie participated in Navy Day celebrations in October after a shakedown off Cuba in 1945, and later conducted training exercises along with escort duties in the Atlantic until she did her goodwill tour to Buenos Aires, Argentina in January 1948. After she underwent an overhaul in Boston in 1949, the George K. MacKenzie continued peacetime missions from January to May of 1950. When the Far East truce was shattered by North Korean aggression, she was transferred to the Pacific to prepare for wartime service.
Action in Korea and Vietnam
From July 1950 to January 1951 she was used to screen attack carriers during strikes on North Korean targets and provide close air support. The George K. MacKenzie also served as an antisubmarine screen to support important bombardment missions at Wonsan Harbor. After nine tours of duty in the Far East which included training exercises with the Taiwan patrol during the years of 1953 to 1959, the George K. MacKenzie was homeported in southern California.
In 1960 the George K. MacKenzie’s homeport was moved to Yokusuka, Japan. There she continued her peacetime training duties along the Philippines, Hong Kong, and other Far East ports. After several years of peacetime service she began her service in Oriental waters in support of operations in Vietnam. The battle tested destroyer returned to California in 1966 for a major overhaul for preparation for future operations.
During 1967 she once again sailed to the Far East to support the fight in South East Asia. On July 29th, 1966 the George K. MacKenzie escorted the naval carrier Forrestal after she broke out in flames. After a return to the U.S. that lasted several years, she was once again deployed to Vietnam, this time to engage in shore bombardments and later participate in Operation Freedom Train.
After the War
The George K. MacKenzie was eventually awarded 6 battle stars for her heroic service in during the Korean War. She was decommissioned on September 30, 1976, and struck from the Naval Register the next day. Two weeks later, she was sunk as a target off the coast of California.
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.