USS Uhlmann DD-687 (1943-1971)
The USS Uhlmann (DD-687) was constructed by the company Bethlehem Steel in Staten Island, New York. After being launched and commissioned in 1943, she was tested for sea travel near Bermuda.
Action in World War II
The destroyer was ordered to join the Destroyer Squadron 56 on January 24, 1944. While doing training exercises in the waters off Hawaii, the ship was hit by the destroyer Benham, which caused an eight-by-ten-foot tear in the Uhlmann’s underside. In the month of August the ship was assigned to Pearl Harbor to continue military exercises. The Uhlmann was hit by a typhoon as well as three destroyers that coasted into her. This caused damage to her starboard side. After the destroyer was repaired, the ship was assigned to Task Force 38 and she was ordered to attack Formosa.
On October 12 Japanese fighters attacked the fleet. Luckily the majority of the planes were shot down. However, several were able to get through and attacked the group. The Uhlmann began shooting at a Japanese bomber. Unfortunately, the plane outmaneuvered the shooters until it was close to the destroyer. The Uhlmann was able to shoot the plane down, and it hit the water 100 yards away from the starboard bow, leaving oil and gas floating on the water.
Japan had decided to move her fleet to Philippine waters when the Uhlmann came across the Japanese Center Force while she was protecting U.S. carriers. The carriers attacked the Japanese fleet and sank the battleship Musashi along with several other enemy ships. After the surrender of the Japanese, the Uhlmann remained in the Pacific, performing mail, freight, and passenger runs.
After the War
On January 27, 1951, the ship was ordered to serve in the Pacific Fleet and was sent to Korea. The Uhlmann was fired upon from several enemy guns on shore. The ship returned fire and was able to diminish the enemy guns to two. During the 1960’s the destroyer was sent to Vietnam, where she served as a protective force for other military fleet in the area.
By 1971, the Uhlmann was the oldest destroyer in service for the Navy. However, she was retired on November 24; the ship was sent to the Inactive Ship Facility in Bremerton and scrapped. The USS Uhlmann was awarded seven battle stars for her assistance in World War II; she received two stars for her work in the Korean War and five for 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, 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.