USS Burke (DE-215) - Facts and Asbestos Exposure

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The USS Burke was a Buckley-class destroyer escort ship. The primary purpose of the vessel was to provide escort services to other naval units traveling at sea. The name of the ship honors Lieutenant Commander John E. Burke who died during the Naval Battle of Guadalcanal.

The main missions in which the USS Burke was involved took place during World War II. The ship was rewarded with a World War II Victory Medal as well as with a European-Africa-Middle East Campaign Medal for its integral participation in the campaigns.

Technical Features of the USS Burke (DE-215)

Class and type: Buckley-class destroyer escort
Launch date: 3 April 1943
Commissioning date: 20 July 1943
Decommissioning date: 22 June 1949
Displacement: 1,768 t full load
Length: 306 ft
Draft: 111.3 ft
Beam: 37 ft
Speed: 23 kts
Complement: 15 officers and 198 enlisted
Propulsion: three propellers, 12,000 shp
Armament: three 3-inch/50 caliber guns, one 1.1inch/75 caliber gun, eight 20mm guns, one 21-inch torpedo, one anti-submarine system, eight depth charge projectors

History of the USS Burke (DE-215)

The USS Burke was built by the Philadelphia Navy Yard. The ship was christened by Mrs. Miriam Katherine Burke and Lieutenant Commander Edwin K. Winn was assigned in command the day the vessel was commissioned on 20 August 1943.

The Burke completed shakedown in the Bermuda area and through 1943 and 1944 it was deployed in several transatlantic tours doing escort duty alongside ships traveling to Europe and North Africa, while also overseeing their safe return to the states.

In January 1945, the Burke was stationed at Sullivan's Dry Dock and Repair Corporation in Brooklyn, New York and it underwent a major conversion that reclassified it as a Charles Lawrence-class high-speed transport. The vessel also left Sullivan's under a new designation, i.e. APD-65.

On 1 May 1945, the Burke was ordered to report to the Pacific Fleet and it mainly engaged in training operations off Maui as a way to prepare for the invasion of Okinawa, where it arrived on 27 June. However, the ship was redirected to the Philippines to take part in a few conquest exercises there.

When the atomic bombs leveled Hiroshima and Nagasaki at the beginning of August, the Japanese saw the uselessness of having the war go on and announced their surrender, which meant that the Burke along other Navy forces did not get to be involved in the attacks that were prepared against the Japanese home islands. After the official ceremony marking down the capitulation occurred, the vessel took on board veterans that were eligible for discharge and transported them back to the United States, docking at San Diego.

In January 1946, the Burke joined the Atlantic Fleet, alongside which it took part in training sessions focused primarily on amphibious and anti-submarine operations. Three years later, the vessel was decommissioned and in December 1968, it was under the authority of the Colombian Navy for which it was in service until the year of 1974 when it was discarded.

Asbestos Risks on the USS Burke (DE-215)

People that have served in the United States Navy before the 1980s are at high-risk of having been exposed to a toxic mineral called asbestos that was used in large amounts in their line of work. The substance was mined all over the U.S., it was purchased at an affordable price and it was conveniently versatile. It added strength to other compounds while keeping their flexibility and it was also able to fireproof them because asbestos is resistant to fire.

Because of such properties, the mineral was used in materials that ended up in large sections of Navy ships, especially in the spaces below the deck in which the threat of fire was more imminent. However, if anything needed reparations in the narrow and poorly ventilated rooms, the servicemen that were assigned to fix the issues were also inhaling toxic asbestos dust released in the air each time power tools would disturb the fibers and cause them to become airborne.

As medical records from the recent decades show, asbestos fibers get stuck inside the human body, most commonly around the lungs, the abdomen, and the heart, irritating them until they reach a stage in which they can develop into cancerous tumors, an occurrence that could happen even 50 years after the exposure initially happened.

Have You Been Exposed to Asbestos on the USS Burke (DE-215)?

We can help you with more information about how veterans were exposed to asbestos while serving on the USS Burke. We can also put you in contact with former colleagues from your time of duty. To learn more, call us at 760.621.6147.

Questions about asbestos exposure? We can help!

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