USS Noa (DD-841)
A Gearing class destroyer that served after World War II, the USS Noa played an important role in the post-war navy. She was built in 1945, served in the Mediterranean, the Indian Ocean, the Persian Gulf, and the Pacific Ocean during the Vietnam War, and she ended her days with the Spanish Navy and was ultimately sold and scrapped for metal in 1991.
Like other U.S. Navy ships built during the post-war period, before the 1970s, the USS Noa contained a lot of asbestos. The asbestos was used to prevent the spread of fire, to insulate, and for many other purposes, but this was before it was fully realized just how harmful the mineral was to human health. Many veterans who served on the Noa were exposed to asbestos fibers and were later found to have developed related illnesses like asbestosis, lung cancer, and mesothelioma.
About the USS Noa
The USS Noa, designated DD-841, was a destroyer in the U.S. Navy from 1945 to 1973. As a destroyer her primary role was to protect larger vessels in the fleet, but she was also responsible for training, exercises, search and rescue, and offensive operations. The Noa was a Gearing class destroyer, one of 98 vessels in that class that were built during and after World War II. They were built upon the previous class and were designed to be longer and to carry more fuel to give them a longer operational range.
The Noa was 390 feet long and displaced 3,516 tons when carrying a full load of fuel, equipment, and men. She was able to travel 8,300 kilometers at a time and carry a complement of 336 men. She was powered by two Babcock &Wilcox boilers and Westinghouse turbines. The Noa was named for a Midshipman, David Noa, an American sailor who died during the Philippine insurrection of 1901.
Construction with Asbestos and Repairs
The USS Noa was laid down in Bath, Maine, constructed by the Bath Ironworks Shipyard. Construction began in 1945 and within just four months she was launched. Commissioning took place in October of 1945 and was done under Commander R.L. Nolan Jr. As with many other ships built at that time, the Noa’s construction included the use of asbestos in many of its components, including the turbines and boilers that came from manufacturers.
The Noa’s first significant repairs were conducted during post-shakedown training in Key West, Florida. She also received repairs and upgrades in 1954 at the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard, where she received sonar equipment. More overhauls were conducted in 1957 and in 1961 participated in the Fleet Rehabilitation and Modernization program, which was to provide ships with more modern equipment and to extend their service lives. During a 1968 overhaul, the Noa had work done on her boilers, which may have exposed workers to asbestos.
Service and Deployment History
After commissioning in late 1945 the Noa went to Cuba for shakedown training followed by repairs and upgrades at Key West’s Fleet Sonar School. Following this initial training and repair she made Norfolk, Virginia her home base and left from that location to serve on several operations along the east coast and in the Mediterranean. In 1953 she was deployed to the Pacific to support peacekeeping operations in the wake of the Korean War.
Following a return to the Atlantic, the USS Noa served in several antisubmarine operations and was also equipped with the latest sonar technology. This experimental technology was tested around Key West in Florida. More training and testing took place throughout the 1950s and then the Noa was sent to the Mediterranean and Persian Gulf to help during the Lebanon crisis in 1958.
In the 1960s the Noa served in many operations in the Mediterranean and the Atlantic. She was also instrumental in the space program, helping to recover astronauts in the Mercury missions from the ocean. In the late 1960s the Noa acted as a training vessel for sonar technology, based in Mayport, Florida. The Noa’s last cruise as an American vessel was in the Red Sea in 1972. The following year, after being decommissioned on October 31, 1973, she was lent to the Spanish Navy where she operated until 1978. She was then sold and scrapped.
Asbestos Use on the USS Noa
The USS Noa was built and often repaired using asbestos. Asbestos was chosen at the time she and other Gearing destroyers were built because it was abundant and cheap, but also because it was effective for fireproofing and insulating and did not add much extra weight to a ship. The heaviest use of asbestos was in the boilers, turbines, and other heat-generating equipment, and in the many lengths of pipe insulation that ran throughout the ship.
Also containing asbestos on board the Noa and similar ships were many smaller components, like fireproof and firefighting clothing, gunner’s gloves, gaskets and valves, adhesives, deck matting, flooring material, and various types of insulation. Asbestos is known and documented to have been used on the USS Noa and on many other U.S. Navy ships.
Personnel Exposed to Asbestos aboard the USS Noa
Use of asbestos is documented aboard the Noa as are later claims to the Veterans Administration (VA) from veterans who served on her and were diagnosed with respiratory conditions like asbestosis. The fibers of asbestos in materials on the ship posed a risk to everyone but mostly to those who worked with the equipment and components that contained asbestos. Boiler and engine room workers, those who did repairs on the ship, and others that manipulated asbestos-containing materials were likely to have disrupted the fibers causing exposure.
One case involved a man who served on the Noa from 1956 to 1960. He developed a number of respiratory conditions over the years and claimed to have been exposed to asbestos on the ship. This was attested by other men who served with him. Another claim came from a man who also served on the Noa. He later developed asbestosis and reported having been exposed to asbestos on various ships, even remembering seeing exposed insulation in the crew quarters and working on insulation repairs.
Men like these are why the U.S. Navy veterans have some of the highest rates of mesothelioma of any population. If you served on the Noa or another ship in the U.S. Navy, especially during the time when asbestos was used heavily, you could have been exposed and you could still develop symptoms of an asbestos illness. These diseases manifest decades after exposure occurs in most cases.
The VA accepts claims from veterans who believe their illnesses are related to service time exposure to asbestos and other toxins. You can make a claim with the VA to get the compensation you need for medical and other expenses, but let an experienced advocate work with you to help make sure you get through the process successfully and quickly.
Page edited by Dave Foster
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