The Mitscher was built by the Bath Iron Works, Corporation in Bath, Maine. She was named in honor of Admiral Marc Andrew Mitscher, Commander-in-Chief, U.S. Atlantic Fleet. The USS Mitscher was launched on February 2, 1951, with Admiral Mitscher’s widow as her sponsor. She was reclassified DL-2 in February of 1951. She was commissioned on May 15, 1953. This 4,271 ton destroyer was 493 feet long and was manned by a crew of 337 men. She could cruise at a speed of 34 knots and has a range of 4,000 nautical miles.
Action in the Atlantic and Mediterranean
After her initial voyage in Cuban waters, the Mitscher was sent back to Boston for an update. She then went to Guantanamo Bay until the end of August 1954. She was then stationed at Newport, Rhode Island, and performed training exercises on the East Coast until the beginning of 1956. In January of 1956 she was sent to England, Germany, and France on a good-will mission, returning to Newport on February 10.
The Mitscher continued to operate on the East Coast for five year and during that time she went every year to the eastern or northern Atlantic to join in NATO training exercises. In early 1961, the destroyer left Charleston, South Carolina, for the Mediterranean to join the 6th Fleet for a six month tour of duty. In the next four years she was involved in NATO and 6th Fleet training exercises.
While the Mitscher was in the Mediterranean, she visited Cyprus in August of 1964 to help in evacuating American Nationals. She was then sent through the Suez Canal to the Red Sea and Persian Gulf on patrol.
On March 2, 1966, the Mitscher went to Philadelphia Naval Shipyard where she was decommissioned on March 18. She underwent a conversion to be a DDG-35 (guided missile destroyer). On June 29, 1968, she was recommissioned and was sent to training exercises on the East Coast. She was then sent to the Atlantic Fleet for the remainder of her active service. She was struck from the Naval Vessel Register in June of 1978 and scrapped two years later.
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.