The USS Samuel B. Roberts was named for Samuel Booker Roberts, Jr., a Naval Reserve member who served from 1939 until he died in September of 1942 while rescuing marines off Guadalcanal. Roberts was posthumously awarded the Navy Cross. The USS Samuel B. Roberts (DD-823) is the second ship named in his honor.
The Gearing-class destroyer was commissioned in late 1946 and commenced shakedown near Cuba with Commander C. T. Doss in command. The ship then joined the Atlantic Fleet for exercises before moving on to the Mediterranean in January of 1948. It alternated between the U.S. and European tours until 1950, when it steamed to Europe to join NATO forces. The Samuel B. Roberts took part in Operation Mainbrace to help maintain control of the northern Atlantic in December of 1952. It finally returned to the U.S. at the end of January in 1953.
The 390-foot warship remained in the Atlantic and Caribbean from early 1953 until the late summer of 1954, when it embarked on a world cruise. It steamed through the Panama Canal, spent five months patrolling the waters around Japan and the Philippines, and then sailed the Indian Ocean. After returning home in 1955, the Samuel B. Roberts helped screen off Greenland during President Eisenhower’s trip to Geneva. The destroyer then moved to the Persian Gulf and the Suez Canal in October of 1956. It patrolled in the Middle East, participated in NATO exercises, and returned home in September of 1957.
The ship was overhauled in early 1958. Its refresher training in the Caribbean was interrupted by a brief deployment to Venezuela, where violence followed a visit by Vice President Nixon. After serving on evacuation duty, the Samuel B. Roberts moved to the Mediterranean to provide reinforcements during a Lebanese crisis. The ship spent most of its time in the Middle East until November of 1958.
In 1959, the ship took part in Operation Inland Seas. By transiting the St. Lawrence Seaway and moving through to Lake Michigan, the destroyer became the first to traverse all five Great Lakes. It then briefly rejoined the Atlantic Fleet and the Middle East Force before being overhauled in 1961.
In 1965, the ship joined the 7th Fleet and operated primarily off the coasts of Vietnam and the Philippines until February of 1966. It then served again in the Caribbean, the Mediterranean, and the Black Sea before being decommissioned in 1970.
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.