The USS Plunkett was a Gleaves-class destroyer named for Rear Admiral Charles Peshall Plunkett. The ship was first laid down on 1 March 1939 in Kearny, New Jersey. The ship was first launched on 7 March 1940, sponsored by the Rear Admiral’s widow, Mrs. Charles P. Plunkett. The Plunkett was commissioned on 17 July 1940 under the command of Lieutenant Commander P.G. Hale.
Action in World War II
From the time the Plunkett was commissioned until 7 December 1941, it was part of the Neutrality Patrol in the Western Atlantic and Caribbean. It intercepted many ships that were being dispatched from Martinique to aid the German government. Near the end of 1941, the Plunkett was on patrol in the North Atlantic. On 7 December 1941 she was sent from the North Atlantic to Argentina.
The Plunkett remained on duty in the Orkneys, patrolling with British ships, until May 1942 when she was sent back to the United States as an escort for the USS New York. On the 2 November 1942, the Plunkett was sent on its first transatlantic escort duty to North Africa. After delivering supplies to Casablanca, and patrolling the Moroccan coast for a short period, the Plunkett was sent back to the U.S. for patrol duty off the New England shores.
By May 1943, the Plunkett was back in North African waters making patrols and providing escort services to allied troops. On 6 July 1943 she was part of the Western Task Force that was set to invade Sicily. During August and September of 1943 she provided support for ground troops and assistance to other ships in the area. On 13 September 1943, the Plunkett aided the British HMS Newfoundland, desperately trying to save the heavily bombed hospital ship. However, after 36 hours the Plunkett was given orders to sink the Newfoundland.
After the War
On 24 January 1944, the Plunkett was severely damaged by a 250kg bomb off the coast of Naples. After temporary repairs were made, the ship made it back to New York 16 January 1945. The Plunkett was decommissioned on 3 May 1946 and put into the Atlantic Reserve Fleet. She was awarded 5 Battle Stars for WWII service. The Plunkett was sold to the Chinese government in 1959 where she was renamed Nan Yang DD-17 and remained in service there until the 1970’s.
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.