The USS McKean is a Wickes class destroyer that was built in San Francisco, California, and received her commission in February of 1919. Her first deployment took her into the Atlantic Ocean region in 1919, including a trip into the waters of Europe in May until July. She returned to the Philadelphia Navy Yard in 1922 and was decommissioned. That would last until she was given a new classification put in place as a high-speed transport in the middle of 1940. This new commission required her to get a new hull number, APD-5, and she became an active part of the Navy in late 1940. She was present in the Atlantic for the next year, until the bombing of Pearl Harbor.
Action in World War II
In May of 1942 the McKean headed out to the South Pacific and arrived just in time to help with the invasion of the Tulagi area in the Solomon Islands. She assisted the campaign to hold on to Guadalcanal through logistics and escort duties until January.
She was given an overhaul in early 1943 and sent back to the South Pacific to help in the Allied invasion of the Solomon Islands chain. She assisted in the landings at Rendova and New Georgia and patrolled at Guadalcanal once more. In later October and early into November her troops fought at Mono Island, Choisul, and Bougainville, sometimes returning to Guadalcanal for troop runs.
Destruction at Papua New Guinea
Sadly, the McKean did not survive this campaign. On November 17th of 1943, while approaching Empress Augusta Bay, she was struck by an Imperial Japanese torpedo from a Mitsubishi G4M plane. She tried to evade the attack, but the torpedo hit the starboard side of the boat, blowing up the magazine and rupturing the fuel tanks. Many sailors who jumped overboard were consumed by burning oil in the water. In all, 116 crew members perished, and the remaining survivors were rescued by other destroyers. The McKean eventually received four battle stars for her service.
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.