USS Kalk DD-611 (1941-1968)
The USS Kalk was a Benson class Destroyer that was first laid down in 1941 in San Francisco, CA. The destroyer was sponsored by Mrs. Flora Stanton Kalk, mother of the Lieutenant the ship was named for. The Kalk was launched on July 18, 1942, and was commanded by Commander C.T. Singleton, Jr.
Action in World War II
On December 28, the Kalk was sent on its first mission to patrol the Aleutians. On January 16, 1943, she brought on board 185 survivors of the USS Arthur Middleton and Warden DD-352 which were damaged in a severe arctic storm. She continued patrol in the Aleutians until February 26, when she set sail back to her home port of San Francisco.
After being repaired in port, the Kalk was sent to New York, via the Panama Canal, to join a convoy escort in the Atlantic. On April 28, 1944, she joined a 35-ship convoy headed for Algeria. Once there, the Kalk was on duty searching for German U-Boats. She departed French Morocco on May 19, 1944, arriving in New York on May 31. The destroyer performed escort duties up and down the east coast and provided escort services across the Atlantic for the remainder of the year.
On January 2, 1945, the Kalk was sent back to the Pacific. En route, she was used to search for downed fighter planes around the Ellice Islands, before reaching New Guinea on January 31. The Kalk remained in the New Guinea area until June, mainly performing escort duties in and around the country and assisting many battles to protect the island.
On May 27, while providing support for an invasion on Biak Island, the Kalk took a direct hit from an enemy airplane. The ship was damaged and lost 70 crew members during the incident. However, ship’s company acted beyond the call of duty, saving lives and the ship from complete ruin. The ship was brought into New Guinea for temporary repairs and then sent into Pearl Harbor. From Pearl Harbor she was sent to San Francisco for complete repairs and released back to duty on October 26. The Kalk went on to serve in the invasion of Okinawa, where she served proudly.
After the War
The Kalk escorted the USS Detroit to Tokyo Bay and the official surrender of Japan. After this she returned to the U.S., porting several places before ending up at Charleston, South Carolina, where she was decommissioned in 1946. She served in the Atlantic Reserve Fleet until 1968, when she was stricken from the Naval Register and sunk as a target the next year. The ship was awarded 8 battle stars for her service in WWII.
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.