The construction of the USS Whipple (Destroyer 217) was completed on June 12, 1919, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, by the shipbuilding firm of William Cramp and Sons. Her launch on November 6, 1919, was sponsored by Mrs. Gladys V. Mulvey, descendent of her namesake, Abraham Whipple. Formal commission was bestowed on April 23, 1920, with Lt. Richard F. Bernard in command.
Between the Wars
The ship trained first at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and was sent to Constantinople. Soon thereafter, she oversaw the creation of the Georgian Republic when Britain and France ceded the territory back to the Russians. She was still in the area when Bolshevik troops threatened Crimea and ended up transporting fleeing White Russian refugees from Sevastopol to Constantinople.
From there, the Whipple was ordered to the Far East in 1921 before arriving at her new homeport in the Philippines as part of the Asiatic Fleet. After transporting Marines to battle in Shanghai in 1924, she made four separate visits to Nicaragua to provide support and protection for American citizens in danger from the disturbances in that country, before beginning a second tour with the Asiatic Fleet where she proudly served for the next ten years.
In 1936, the Whipple joined a legion of ships arriving at the Siberian coast to quell the escalating tensions between China and Japan. After the fleet left, tensions broke out into the undeclared Sino-Japanese war, and the ships remained ready to evacuate Americans from the area if necessary. The Whipple continued to patrol the area for the next several years.
Action in World War II
World War II erupted with the Whipple standing guard in its patrol in the Philippines until ordered to Borneo on the eve of the attack on Pearl Harbor. She patrolled the Pacific during the first years of the war, escorting auxiliary ships and aircraft carriers among the islands. When the Langley was sunk by Japanese planes, the Whipple was on hand to take aboard the survivors. Similarly, under fire of Japanese fighter planes and submarines, she heroically rescued survivors of sunken seaplanes and ships, including the Pecos, where 231 men were saved.
After the War
Her final voyage was from Pearl Harbor to Philadelphia, where she arrived on October 18, 1945. She was decommissioned from naval service on November 9. On September 30, 1947, her mighty hulk was sold to the Northern Metals Company of Philadelphia where it was stripped for its scrap metal. The USS Whipple received two battle stars for service in World War II.
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.