The USS Robert L Wilson DD 847 was constructed at Bath Iron Works Corporation in Bath, Maine in 1945 and launched on January 5, 1946. The vessel was commissioned on March 28, 1946, under the command of John T. Probasco. Following initial operations in Cuban waters, the ship was sent to the Mediterranean with the 6th Fleet, serving there through 1946 before returning to the United States in early 1947.
Service in the Atlantic, Caribbean, and Mediterranean
While based in Newport, Rhode Island, the Robert L Wilson engaged in operations in the Caribbean and Atlantic Coast. Following an overhaul in Boston, the ship was part of a midshipman cruise to England, France, and Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. In March of 1950, the ship was re-designated DDE-847 as an escort destroyer and served in training cruises in Northern Europe and the Mediterranean and hunter-killer operations.
In January of 1951, the Robert L Wilson was assigned to Escort Squadron 4 and went on to serve in escort duties and completed eight tours of service and training missions in the Mediterranean. After being assigned to Destroyer Squadron 36, the ship operated in the Caribbean and western Atlantic and was configured to serve in antisubmarine missions.
Heading into 1960, the Robert L Wilson was a part of sea-air rescue stations for Presidential flights between the U.S. and Europe before receiving an overhaul in the summer. In January of 1961, the vessel returned to Atlantic and Caribbean operations and completed a ninth Mediterranean cruise and finished up the year in operations in the western Atlantic.
In 1962 the Robert L Wilson served in space recovery missions and additional operations in Northern Europe and served in defensive missions during the Cuban Missile Crisis in the fall before receiving modernization upgrades. In 1964 and through 1965, the ship served with the Atlantic Fleet. The vessel provided gunfire support heading into 1966 in Cuba and performed recovery operations and served as a school ship through 1967 in the Caribbean and Atlantic.
The Robert L Wilson continued in similar operations and provided naval support in South Vietnam leading into the early 1970s. Following additional operations in the western Atlantic and Panama Canal the ship participated in NATO exercises and assisted with a crisis in the Middle East and finished service with a training cycle.
The Robert L Wilson was decommissioned on September 30, 1974 and sunk as a target in a missile test program on March 1, 1980. She earned three battle stars for her participation in the Vietnam War.
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, includingÂ 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.