USS Nelson DD-623 (1942-1947)
The Nelson was built at the Federal Shipbuilding and Drydock Co. in Kearny, New Jersey. It was launched on September 15 and commissioned on November 26, 1942, with Lt. Comdr M. M. Riker in command.
Action in World War II
The Nelson completed shakedown and joined the Atlantic Fleet on January 21, 1943. Through May 29, she served as flagship of Destroyer Squadron 17. She participated in the invasion of Sicily in June and worked with the Western Task Force to land assault troops, expand the area captured, and seize the airfield nearby at Ponte Olivo.
After this operation, she returned to New York and was reassigned to North Atlantic convoy runs. In May 1944, she went to England for the upcoming Normandy invasion. Her port screw and shaft were damaged by a mooring buoy and had to be removed. However, the extreme need for ships allowed the Nelson to go underway June 2, having only a starboard screw. She joined the Dixie Line, which specialized in night attacks. On June 8-9, several Dixie Line destroyers sank two German E-boats.
On the night of June 13, she received a torpedo hit that blew off her stern and she had to be towed in by the Maloy (DE–791). Twenty four crewmembers were missing or killed, and nine were wounded. She underwent emergency repairs in Northern Ireland and was towed to Boston to receive a new stern.
After the repairs, the Nelson returned to patrol the Atlantic on November 23, 1944. In December, she conducted anti-submarine patrol on the way to England. She left New York in February 1945 for a convoy run in Oran, Algeria and returned on March 31.
During April and May, she served as screen and plane guard for the Card (CVE-11). On May 16, Lt. Comdr. Clark W. Freeman, USNR took over as skipper, relieving Comdr. Thomas D. McGrath. The Nelson transited the Panama Canal on August 1 on the way to Pearl Harbor and on to Tokyo Bay following the surrender of Japan.
After the War
During the last part of September, the Nelson steamed to Korea, Okinawa, and Singapore. She arrived at Colombo, Ceylon on the 30th, and two days later, a new commanding officer, Lt. Comdr. Scott Lothrop, took over, relieving Lt. Comdr. Clark W. Freeman. On November 3, the Nelson left for New York. She set out once more on January 29, 1946, for Charleston, S.C. In January 1947, she was placed out of commission and into reserve in the U.S. Atlantic Reserve Fleet; she was moored at Charleston. The Nelson was stricken from the Naval Register on March 1, 1968 and sold in July of 1969.
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.