The USS Shubrick DD 639 was the fourth naval ship to carry the name honoring Rear Admiral William B. Shubrick, a U.S. Naval veteran whose service included the War of 1812, the Mexican-American War and the Civil War. A Gleaves-class destroyer built by the Norfolk Naval Shipyard in Virginia, the Shubrick was launched in April of 1942, sponsored by Admiral Shubrick’s great-great granddaughter, Mrs. Grosvenor Bernis. When commissioned in February of 1943, the ship had Lieutenant Commander Louis A. Bryan in command.
Action in World War II
The first duty following shakedown for this 1,630 ton destroyer was sailing to North Africa to participate in Operation Husky in June of 1943. Providing fire support in the waters around Gela, Sicily, the Shubrick herself suffered severe damage to her main machinery spaces after being targeted by a 500-pound bomb which caused nine fatalities to her crew and injuries to almost two dozen more men onboard. Towed by the USS Nauset into the harbor for initial repairs, the Shubrick was drydocked in Malta, returning to the U.S. mainland in early October for extensive repairs in New York.
Following repairs, the Shubrick joined Operation Overlord, escorting five cruisers and a battleship to the beaches of Normandy, where she remained for more than a month, providing escort, fire support and antisubmarine patrols, regularly returning to England for supplies. In early July, her duty at Normandy was concluded in order to join a task force headed to the Mediterranean Sea.
For Operation Dragoon, she was part of a task force of four escort carriers and five naval destroyers whose mission was to provide air cover for the landings of August 15th on the beaches of southern France. Encountering no enemy fighting on this mission, the Shubrick headed back to the U.S. by early September for overhaul.
Prior to joining the Pacific Fleet in February of 1945, the Shubrick had a convoy mission to Italy followed by training exercises off the eastern coast of the U.S. For her first Pacific Fleet assignment, she escorted the battleship Mississippi to Okinawa from Pearl Harbor in mid-April. On May 29, 1945, she sustained major damage due to a Japanese kamikaze airplane attack that resulted in 35 fatalities and at least 25 of her crew wounded.
After the War
Able to make it back to the Puget Sound Navy Yard by August 10 using only one engine, the Shubrick was never repaired and decommissioned in November of 1945, struck from the Register of Navy Vessels at this time. In 1947, her hulk was sold for scrapping to the National Metal and Steel Corporation of Los Angeles.
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.