The USS Niblack DD 424 was constructed at the Bath Iron Works Corporation in Bath, Maine and officially launched on May 18, 1940. The ship was commissioned on August 1, 1940 under the command of E. R. Durgin. Following initial training in the Caribbean, the vessel was sent to Argentia, Newfoundland.
Action in World War II
In July of 1941, the Naciblk served escort duty in Iceland. In April of 1941, the ship picked up survivors from a merchant ship damaged by torpedo. The ship took part in the first military action between German and U.S. forces later that year. The destroyer returned to escort duty through the fall of 1941 and picked up the 45 survivors of the attack on the Reuben James by German forces.
Following the Pearl Harbor attack, the Naciblk served as an escort in the North Atlantic and Iceland. In the summer of 1942, the ship was sent to Caribbean to assist during the U-boat campaign in the region. By the fall of the 1942, the vessel returned to escort duty and continued to do so into 1943 before heading to Algeria.
The Niblack was a part of the invasion of Sicily and continued to provide support in German submarine attacks and assisted with operations on the Italian coast through the summer of 1943. The ship conducted call-fire support missions and offered additional support in German attacks, leading the way for Allied ground forces in Italy through the fall of 1943 and assisting in German submarine attacks through early 1944.
Following an overhaul in New York in February of 1944, the Niblack participated in operations in the Mediterranean, Sicily, Southern Italy, and North Africa, continuing to lend Allied support. The ship was part of a hunt for German U-boats through the summer of 1944 and provided support in Allied efforts in the invasion of Southern France. Despite being under enemy fire, the ship continued to serve in key Allied operations, including fire support missions, through December of 1944, sinking several German subs.
The Niblack returned to escort efforts into 1945. After returning to the Boston Navy Yard in February of 1945, the ship participated in training and escort operations following the end of hostilities with Japan. The ship continued with escort duties through the end of 1945. The Niblack was officially decommissioned in June of 1947 and stricken from Naval records in July of 1968 after being transferred to Philadelphia.
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.