The U.S. Navy named the USS Vesole (DD-878) in honor of a posthumous recipient of the Navy Cross, Ensign Kay K. Vesole USN (1913-1943). Ensign Vesole lost his life on December 2, 1943 during an air raid at Bari, Italy. Consolidated Steel Corporation undertook construction of the Vesole just before the Independence Day holiday on July 3, 1944 in Orange Texas. The Gearing-class destroyer hit the water almost six months later on December 29, 1944. She received her commission on April 23, 1945.
Service Around the World
The Vesole’s primary deployments split between two fleets. She sailed with the United States 2nd Fleet along the Atlantic seaboard as well as throughout Caribbean waters. She also joined the Navy’s 6th Fleet for courses set in the Mediterranean.
The Cuban Missile Crisis pressed the Vesole into blockade operations in 1962. By 1964, the Navy deemed the 20-year-old destroyer fit for reconstruction, sending her for a stopover to the Philadelphia Navy Yard where she underwent exhaustive renovation as part of FRAM. The Fleet Rehabilitation and Modernization program aimed to extend the life of World War II destroyers and other vessels.
The overhauled Vesole witnessed her first action in Vietnam. She operated as plane guard in the Tonkin Gulf, assigned to Yankee Station aircraft carriers. The Vesole also played her part in search and rescue missions, naval gunfire support assignments and tactical missions such as Operation Sea Dragon and Operation Market Time.
The Vesole took the role of a permanent U.S. participant in NATO’s Standing Naval Force Atlantic (STANAVFORLANT), a task force established just one year before. Her January to June 1969 assignment, under the watch of a Dutch Commodore and Canadian Chief of Staff, sent her far and wide, from the Caribbean waters of Bermuda to the cold-water climes of Norway in the North Atlantic. Other permanent members of the squadron included vessels from Norway, The Netherlands and Britain. Ships from West Germany and Portugal made up the balance of the force.
The U.S. Navy removed the Vesole from service, striking her from the Naval Register, on December 1, 1976. A little more than six years later, on April 14, 1983, the USS Vesole was employed as a target off the coast of Puerto Rico when she was struck and sunk.
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.