The USS Meade was a 348-foot Benson-class destroyer. An improvement over destroyers in the Sims class, the Meade was designed with alternating boiler and engine rooms in order to better withstand torpedo attacks.
The ship was constructed on Staten Island in 1942. She was commissioned by Moray Nairne Wootton and named for two brothers: Rear Admiral Richard W. Meade, a naval officer who served from 1850 to 1895, and Lieutenant Robert L. Meade, who served the U.S. Marines from 1862 until 1902. The men were nephews of the famous Civil War General Gordon Meade. The USS Meade was commissioned in June and steamed to the Pacific war front following shakedown.
Action in World War II
The Meade’sduty began in September 1942 when she escorted ships from Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to the South Pacific and then took part in the protracted battle to hold Guadalcanal. The Meade exchanged gunfire while crossing Ironbottom Sound and battled through the night of November 14, but the destroyer emerged victorious. She continued to escort carriers, rescue 266 survivors of the sunken Preston and Walke, and shell Japanese convoys in the Guadalcanal region.
The ship then left for the chillier Aleutian archipelago in the spring of 1943. From there the crew supported the invasion of Attu and the occupation of Kiska – a bloodless endeavor, as the Japanese had evacuated. The Meade then returned south for overhaul at Puget Sound and another tour of the South Pacific.
Back in the South Pacific, USS Meade assumed anti-submarine duty off the Gilbert Islands, screened carriers in the Marshall Islands, and patrolled the region until heading to California for a summertime overhaul. The Meade next served in the Central Pacific and then, from the summer of 1944 until February of 1945, acted as an escort between Hawaii and the Philippines.
After the War
Following the Japanese surrender, the vessel moved to waters off of French Indochina and delivered medical supplies to French military personnel. The crew moved homeward in November and December. The Meade was decommissioned in June 1946 and overhauled for placement with the Atlantic Reserve Fleet until 1971. She would receive nine stars for her World War II service. The U.S. Navy sank the destroyer during a targeting exercise in 1973.
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.