The USS J. Fred Talbott (DD-156), a Wickes-class destroyer, was built by William Cramp & Sons of Philadelphia and launched on December 14, 1918. She was commissioned June 30, 1919, with Comdr. T. G. Ellyson as her commanding officer.
Between the Wars
The J. Fred Talbott was deployed after shakedown from Newport, Rhode Island, on July 10, en route to the Mediterranean. She was assigned to ports throughout the region, serving as station ship. This helped to establish a more stable atmosphere, allowing the people of Europe to begin adjusting to a postwar culture. The destroyer was reassigned stateside, arriving in port June 21, 1920. She was assigned to the east coast on patrol duties and participated in operational training exercises until she was assigned to Philadelphia and taken out of commission on January 18, 1923.
On May 1, 1930, the J. Fred Talbott was recommissioned under the command of Lt. C. H. Cobb. She was assigned to Delaware Bay for operational exercises prior to assuming her duties on the Atlantic coast where she would engage in routine patrol operations for the next decade. Her operational area also included the Caribbean, where she participated in antisubmarine warfare and fleet operations training. Another of her duties included training midshipmen and reserves.
Action in World War II
The onset of war in Europe required that America, while neutral, move to protect shipping interests. The J. Fred Talbott received orders to patrol Atlantic waters, monitoring possible threats along the corridor leading to the Panama Canal. On December 7, 1941, the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, bringing the United States fully into World War II. The J. Fred Talbott was then assigned as an escort for convoys traveling between the Panama Canal, New Orleans and Cuba, protecting the sea lanes to enable transport of the men and supplies required for the war effort.
The destroyer reported to Boston for overhaul in January 1944. She was redeployed February 13, assigned as convoy escort to Casablanca. Upon arrival back in the U. S., she was given the duty of escorting convoys to destinations ranging from Iceland to the Caribbean. On September 15 she reported to New York for conversion and, upon completion, was reclassified AG-81 on September 25. Redeployed, she reached Port Everglades, Florida, on November 1. She was used as target practice for torpedo training, remaining in this capacity until the end of the war.
After the War
On May 21, 1946, the J. Fred Talbott was taken out of commission at Boston, Massachusetts. She was stricken on June 19, 1946, from the Naval Vessel Register and sold as scrap to Boston Metals Corporation later that year.
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.