The USS Harold J Ellison (DD864) was a Gearing-class destroyer named for Ensign Harold J. Ellison, a naval aviator who was killed during the Battle of Midway in the opening months of the U.S. Pacific campaign of World War II. Originally intended to take part in the anticipated invasion of the Japanese home islands, the Harold J. Ellison was completing her sea trial operations when the surrender of Japanese Imperial Forces came on August 15, 1945.
Service in the Atlantic, Caribbean, and Mediterranean
After the war, the USS Harold J. Ellison was home ported at Norfolk, Virginia, and conducted operations in the Atlantic and the Caribbean for the next 24 months. These operations included Naval Reserve training cruises and anti-submarine warfare exercises.
In 1947 the Harold J. Ellison joined the US 6th Fleet, making several Mediterranean cruises in support of U.S. interests in the region as well as conducting peacekeeping operations. She participated in search and recovery operations for the downed British submarine HMS Affray in April of 1951 and later made cruises to the Caribbean and northern Europe during 1953. During 1954 through 1956, the Harold J. Ellison returned to the US east coast and resumed tactical training exercises also making several cruises to Europe with the US 6th fleet.
After the Suez Canal crisis in 1956, the Harold J. Ellison, as part of the US 6th fleet, operated with a peacekeeping force helping to keep this vital waterway open and secure. Later from July to September 1968, she was deployed as part of a US naval force sent to Lebanon and operated in support of landing a U.S. Marine expeditionary force sent at the request of the country’s President, Camille Chamoun. In September of that year, the destroyer was part of Task Group Alfa, which helped perfect new tactics and equipment for anti-submarine warfare, and remained in this role until April of 1959.
In her remaining service years, USS Harold J. Ellison was deployed to both the Pacific and Atlantic fleets, and worked as a recovery ship for the Mercury space missions in the Atlantic range. She served as a picket ship on Yankee Station in the Tonkin Gulf during the Vietnam conflict and provided fire support for ground operations in North Vietnam.
The USS Harold J. Ellison was removed from US Naval service on 1 October 1983. She was struck from the register and transferred to Pakistan on the same day. She was renamed the Shah Jahan and served in the Pakistan navy until being scrapped in 1994.
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.