The USS Schenck (DD-159) was a Wickes-class demolisher, built for the U.S. Navy for service World War I. Manufactured by the New York Shipbuilding Corporation in Camden, New Jersey, on 26 March 1918, she was launched on 23 April 1919, and was commissioned on 30 October 1919.
Although she was an elegant looking vessel, the Schenck was sluggish and lacked firepower, especially compared to the more modern vessels that had been manufactured during the outbreak of World War II. Nevertheless, her model was adaptable enough to allow upgrades. She was used extensively as minesweeper, convoy escort, and transporter throughout the war.
Action in World War II
The Schenck arrived in Argentia, Newfoundland on 15 September 1941 to protect convoys carrying important war material to England. She stayed on the convoy trail between Argentia and Iceland until April 1943, battling heavy weather and German submarines. During two extensive periods, from 19 February to 9 May 1942 and 18 August 1942 to 23 March 1943, the Schenck was stationed in Iceland, covering convoys in and out of Icelandic ports.
The high point in the Schenck’s war career was on Christmas Eve 1943. The Schenck discovered an underwater explosion and noticed an oil slick that marked the end of U-645. Almost instantaneously, another submarine sank the Schenck’s squadron-mate, the Leary (DD-158). The Schenck continued her ASW action and was later honored by the task group commander for her part in preventing an intensive wolf-pack attack on the Card, her continued strong action after the downing of the Leary, and for her strategic rescue of Leary’s survivors.
In the months of February and March 1944, the Schenk (DD-159) made one last round-trip group voyage from the east coast to Casablanca. During 10 July and 29 August, she supplied training services for submarines at Bermuda and then went into the Brooklyn Navy Yard where she was then removed of her armament.
Afterwards, she was assigned for obligations under Commander, Air Force, and the Atlantic Fleet as a torpedo target vessel for aircraft. Recertified AG-82 and put into actiont on 25 September 1944, she supplied targets use for student pilots off Quonset Point, R.I. until the war ended.
After the war
The Schenck entered the Boston Navy Yard in January 1946 for deactivation. She was decommissioned on 17 May, taken off the Navy list on 5 June, and bought on 25 November 1946 for metal to Boston Metals Co., Baltimore, Md.
The Schenck was given one battle star for her World War II service.
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.