USS Norris DD-859 (1945-1970)

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The USS Norris (DD-859) was named for Marine Corps Reserve aviator Benjamin White Norris who was posthumously awarded the Navy Cross. The Norris was a 2,400 ton Gearing-class destroyer built at San Pedro, California, and commissioned on June 5, 1945.

Following shakedown off the West Coast Norris was sent to Treasure Island for three-months at the Pre-Commission Training Center. She was assigned patrol duty in Hawaii and the Far East, arriving at Hong Kong on February 7, 1946. The Norris returned to the United States one year later and resumed patrol along the Chinese coast from January to July 1948. The ship then went in for overhaul at Mare Island, California, including installation of advanced anti-submarine warfare (ASW) gear.

Action in the Korean War

Reclassified as a destroyer escort (DDE), the Norris moved to Newport, Rhode Island in March 1950. In July, shortly after the outbreak of the Korean War, Morris sailed to the Mediterranean and transited the Suez Canal to join 7th Fleet operations in the combat zone. She provided gunfire support during the evacuation of Hungnam in December. Returning to homeport in March 1951, she underwent overhaul at Boston. The following spring Norris deployed to the Mediterranean for duty with the 6th Fleet. Late June 1952 saw her back at Newport preparing for NATO exercises in the North Sea, which took place from August to October. Two more Mediterranean cruises followed.

The Norris joined the Atlantic Fleet Hunter-Killer Group in June 1954. During exercises in November, she collided with the SS Bergall as the submarine attempted a torpedo firing. From May to June 1955, the Norris provided escort for units travelling to 6th Fleet. The destroyer patrolled the North Atlantic during the Suez Crisis in November 1956. At the beginning of 1957, she sailed to South American waters for training with Destroyer Squadron 24. Two more Mediterranean cruises took place in late 1957 and in 1960. The Norris was reclassified as a general purpose destroyer (DD) in August 1962, and was part of the quarantine during the Cuban Missile Crisis.

Action in the Vietnam War

The Norris’ next Mediterranean deployments took place from February to July of 1963 and again in 1964 and 1965. In late 1966 Norris joined the conflict in Vietnam, providing gunfire support, returning to Newport on April 25, 1967. She returned to the Mediterranean in 1968 and 1969.

Decommissioned on December 4, 1970, Norris was stricken from the Naval Register in February 1974. She was then transferred to the Turkish navy, and finally sold for scrap in 1994. The Norris received two Battle Stars for service in Korea.

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.

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