The USS Steinaker was commissioned in May of 1945 after being built in Staten Island. She had her shakedown cruise off of Guantanamo Bay and returned to Norfolk, her first home port. She served as a training ship for the rest of 1945. For the next seven years, she alternated between operations on the east coast and Mediterranean deployments with the 6th fleet.
The Steinaker came back to Norfolk in July of 1952 for conversion to a radar picket ship and to receive the new designation of DDR-863. This necessitated another shakedown training at Guantanamo. She was then sent to the Sixth Fleet, where she would again serve off and on for more than a decade. In 1964, she obtained her FRAM conversion and finally received the modern antisubmarine warfare weapons to help her protect the fleet. In July of 1964 she became DD-863 again.
Action in Vietnam and the Atlantic
The Steinaker was a part of the Middle East Force in 1967, and in March of 1968 she left Norfolk for her first deployment to the Western Pacific. She visited several ports of call before joining the Seventh Fleet from May until October. She supported troops with her guns during operations in North Vietnam. She helped stop the seaborne infiltration of forces heading into South Vietnam and escorted the aircraft carriers conducting strikes against the North.
At the end of 1968, the Steinaker returned to the East Coast of the United States for duties with the Atlantic Fleet. In 1970 she was sent to NATO’s standing naval force in the Atlantic, where she remained until July. She was then transferred to Destroyer Squadron 10 in the Naval Reserve Force in July of 1973, operating out of Baltimore. By December of 1974, she was acting as a training ship for reserve forces.
In all the USS Steinaker received two battle stars for her service in the Vietnam War. The destroyer was ultimately decommissioned and struck from the Navy list on February 24, 1982. At that time, she was transferred to the Mexican navy, where she was renamed the Netzahualcoyotl. As of June 2005, she was still in active 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.