The USS McCaffery (DD/DDE-860) was named for Lieutenant Colonel Joseph P. McCaffery of the US Marine Corps who was posthumously awarded the Navy Cross. Nicknamed “Big Mac,” the ship was launched on April 12, 1945, and commissioned on July 26. This Gearing class destroyer weighed in at 3460 tons and was 390.5 feet long. She was manned by 340 officers and enlisted men. She was propelled by two geared turbines and could reach a speed of 36.8 knots with a range of 4.500 nautical miles. She was armed with six 5-inch guns, twelve 40mm guns, eleven 20mm guns, and ten 21-inch guns.
Action in Korea, the Cold War, and Vietnam
The McCaffery joined the Seventh Fleet during the Korean War to support United Nations Troops. She cruised the East Coast and the Caribbean with the Second Fleet, and was sent to the Mediterranean as well.
She was overhauled at the New York Naval Shipyard in 1961. In 1962 she was involved in the Cuban Missile Crisis in quarantine operations. In 1963 she served as the communications ship for the Mercury space mission. Also in 1963 she was deployed to the Mediterranean for training with British, Greek, and Turkish forces. In 1964, she went to northern Europe and in 1965 she was sent to the Red Sea and Persian Gulf where she performed CENTO operations with Iranian and British ships.
In 1966 she helped to recover the Gemini IX and Gemini XII space projects. In February 1967 she was sent to Vietnam. During the Vietnam War she was part of the Market Time and Sea Dragon operations along with her gunfire support duties. From 1968 to 1970 the McCaffery remained in the Atlantic on antisubmarine warfare operations as part of NATO. In 1971 the McCaffery went to Africa and the Middle East for five months. In 1972 she was involved in surveillance operations of Cuba. In late 1972 McCaffery was once again sent to Vietnam.
After the War
She was decommissioned and on September 30 of 1973 she was stricken from the Navy Registry. On June 11, 1974, she was finally sold for scrap.
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.