The Clemson-class destroyer USS McCormick, named after the Navy Lieutenant Alexander A. McCormick, was built in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and was commissioned in August of 1920. The McCormick spent her first years at sea serving with Destroyer Squadron 5 in the Pacific Fleet before returning to the East Coast to prepare for deployment with the Naval Forces’ Destroyer Detachment, headed for European waters. She spent her time there primarily in the Mediterranean, serving mostly diplomatically, until 1924, at the conclusion of a peace treaty between the Allied Forces and Turkey.
In 1925, the McCormack was reassigned to the Asiatic Fleet, where she operated from Cavite. While there, she acted as the flagship for Destroyer Division 39 and then later Destroyer Division 14, where she supported patrols on the Yangtze River and around the waters of South China until 1932 when she was ordered back to the United States and decommissioned in San Diego in October of 1938.
Action in World War II
In 1939, tensions in Europe became pronounced and the McCormick was recommissioned in September. She was assigned to neutrality patrol in the Atlantic, but moved towards antisubmarine activity as the U.S. officially entered the war. From the end of 1939 until early 1942, she spent her time in the waters around Iceland and on runs to Argentina, Halifax, and Londonderry. In 1943, she escorted several convoys to Casablanca and on her return trip ended up in a skirmish involving U-boats where she was tasked with picking up survivors.
In July of 1943, the McCormick headed to Natal, Brazil, and back to Casablanca before being ordered to Boston in 1944 to briefly further her antisubmarine duties in the Atlantic before setting off on another transatlantic journey in May. While on her run, she visited Bizerte, Oran, Cherbourg, Falmouth, Belfast and Milford Haven before returning to Boston in October of that year to continue her patrol duties. She made a brief trip to the Caribbean and back to Casablanca in January of 1945.
After the War
In March of 1945, she left for temporary duty at Balboa in Canal Zone, where she was reclassified as miscellaneous auxiliary and was sent to Boston for overhaul. During that period, the war ended and she was no longer needed. McCormick was decommissioned in October of 1945 and she was sold for scrap in December of 1946.
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.