USS Leonard F. Mason (DD-852) was built by the Bethlehem Steel Company in Quincy, Massachusetts. She was launched on January 4, 1946, sponsored by the mother of Private First Class Mason. On June 28, 1946, she was commissioned under the command of Commander S. D. B. Merrill. Mason had her shakedown in Caribbean waters and was then sent to the Pacific. For the next three years she alternated between Pacific cruises and assignments in the United States. On November 13, 1950 she went to the Pacific for antisubmarine exercises.
Action in the Korean War
On May 16, 1951 she was part of the forces at the siege of Wonsan by bombarding the shore with gun fire to impede the enemy troops. After the siege, she was sent back to San Diego, arriving in August of 1951. She was overhauled while stateside. In early 1952 she steamed Wonsan Harbor and the Korean coast. After this, she returned to Long Beach where she was stationed until her return to the Far East in June of 1953 to work in the Yellow Sea and off Wonsan. She made three more cruises to the western Pacific during 1954 to 1960.
After the War
Once the Korean hostilities ended she assumed peacekeeping duties on the West Coast. She was overhauled in 1963 at the Boston Naval Shipyard and then returned to Yokosuka in July of 1964. For the next two years she joined the 7th Fleet to support missions in Vietnam, patrol assignments in the Taiwan Straits. On March 17, 1966, the Leonard F. Mason took Astronauts David Scott and Neil Armstrong and their space capsule aboard after the Gemini VIII splashed down. She was once again overhauled in July in Long Beach. For the rest of the years she cruised the coast of California with in November took a voyage to Acapulco.
At the beginning of 1967, the Leonard F. Mason was sent to the San Francisco Bay Naval Shipyard to be updated. In mid-September she once again steamed to the Western Pacific to Yankee Station, returning to Long Beach in March. In 1969, she joined the 7th Fleet to operate in the Far East from the South China Sea to Japan. She participated in the Vietnam War in 1972 and 1973. She was struck from the Naval Vessel Register on November 2, 1976, and sold to China in 1978. On February 16, 2000, she was decommissioned and sunk to create an artificial reef in April of 2003.
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.