USS Knapp DD-653 (1943-1972)

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The USS Knapp was named for Harry S. Knapp. The Connecticut native had a distinguished military career, graduating from the Naval Academy in 1878 and serving even beyond his formal retirement in 1920. In addition to being named Rear Admiral, Knapp was appointed U.S. Military Representative for Haiti and was given the military governorship of Santo Domingo. After retiring, Knapp worked as a diplomat and consultant.  The USS Knapp (DD-653) was built in Maine in 1943. This Fletcher-class destroyer would earn eight battle stars for service in World War II.

Action in World War II

The Knappleft port for shakedown in September of 1943 and then headed to Pearl Harbor to prepare for the Marshall Islands invasion. This assignment lasted from mid-January until mid-February. The ship also bombarded Kwajalein during this time. Afterward, through early April 1944, she carried on as a screener and helped raid Yap and other Japanese holdings in the Western Pacific.

For the remainder of April, the ship provided cover for the Hollandia landings and air raids in the Carolines. She then headed to screening duty off Saipan and took part in the Battle of the Philippine Sea. The ship’s screening continued in July and August as Allied forces raided Palau, Iwo Jima, and other Japanese islands.

In September of 1944, the Knapp covered for strikes on the Philippines. In October, the destroyer helped prepare for the Leyte Gulf landings and took part in the key Battle of Surigao Strait. Over the next few months, she continued screening for air strikes and guiding downed ships to safety. She sailed to the west coast on January 30, 1945, for overhauling.

The Knappreturned to the water in April and for several days assumed the dangerous duty of radar picket station. Until the end of the war, she then served with Task Force 39 for final raids. She was present at the Tokyo Bay surrender ceremony on September 2, 1945, and helped demilitarize Japanese ships.

After the War

Although Knapp was decommissioned in 1946, she was recommissioned at the outbreak of the Korean Conflict. Starting in 1951, the ship served in the Atlantic Fleet and visited northern Europe and the Mediterranean. In August 1953 she deployed for a world cruise, stopping to patrol the Korean coast at the end of the year. She returned to Massachusetts in March 1954.

Before being decommissioned in 1957, the USS Knapp patrolled the Formosa Straits a final time to help ward off the Communist Chinese. The ship was assigned to the Pacific Reserve Fleet, where she remained until being struck from the register in 1972 and subsequently scrapped.  However, her bridge was salvaged and can still be seen at the Columbia River Maritime Museum in Oregon.

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.


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