The USS Kennison was a Wickes class Destroyer that was first launched from Vallejo, California, on June 8, 1918. She was commissioned on April 2, 1919, under Commander R.P. Enrich. The ship was sponsored by Miss Elizabeth Riner.
The destroyer was named for William W. Kennison. Kennison served as Acting Master’s Mate, a position he was appointed to on August 28, 1861. He rose to the rank of Volunteer Lieutenant during the Civil War, where he was acknowledged for heroic deeds during a battle between the CSS Merrimac (Confederate ship) and the USS Cumberland in 1862. After the war Kennison was reassigned rank as Acting Master.
The Kennison was based out of San Diego, arriving there on March 25, 1920, after her shakedown cruise. Her first duties were to participate in experimental war exercises with torpedoes and aircraft. She continued this duty until August 12, 1921, when she was put into dock while carrying only half the number of crew members she was built to carry. The ship was decommissioned on June 22, 1922.
Action in World War II
The Kennison was brought back to duty on December 18, 1939. In May of 1940 the ship joined the Neutrality Patrol out of San Diego. Between June and September 1940, she was used for reserve training, and then rejoined the Neutrality patrol again in October. The destroyer continued patrolling the west coast, providing escort services until 1944. At that time she was sent in for conversion.
The Kennison was re-designated AG-83 and returned to San Diego for its new assignment. From November 9, 1944, until the end of World War II, the ship worked as a target ship for torpedo and aerial practice. Naval pilots were able to excel in their fight against the Japanese through the special training exercises they received using the Kennison.
After the War
After the war, she sailed for Norfolk, Virginia, where she was decommissioned on November 21, 1945. She was struck from the Naval Vessel Record and sold for scrap in 1946. Thus far, she is the only ship to have been named for William W. Kennison.
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.