The USS Cooper, an Allen M Sumner-class destroyer in the United States Naval fleet was the only naval ship named after Elmer Glenn Cooper, an aviator, killed in an accident at sea in 1938. The ship, built in February of 1944 by the Federal Shipbuilding and Drydock Company, from New Jersey, was commissioned on March 27, 1944 and commanded by J.W. Schmidt.
Action in World War II
The Cooper sailed to the Pacific on July 23 of the year 1944. It arrived in Pearl Harbor on September 4 of the year 1944. While stationed at Pearl Harbor, it underwent extensive training. On October 23 of the year 1944, the ship set sail for Ulithi. Upon arriving at Ulithi, the USS Cooper screened aircraft carriers from Japanese air attacks until November 19.
After undergoing a series of repairs at Ulithi, the ship set sail for San Pedro Bay, Philippines. It entered the region on November 29, 1944, conducting patrols in the Leyte Gulf up until December 2, 1944 when it joined two other destroyers, the Allen M. Sumner and the Moale, on a mission to destroy Japanese ships in the Ormoc Bay. There they encountered heavy resistance from two Japanese destroyers and several small craft. During this battle, the Cooper sank the destroyer, the Kuwa, of the Japanese Navy.
Early in the morning of December 3, 1944, the USS Cooper, struck by a Japanese torpedo, suffered serious damage to the starboard side. The torpedo hit quickly, caused the ship to be torn in half. The area was heavily infested with enemy planes and ships, delaying rescue efforts for several hours. At approximately 14:00 hours, several hours after being struck by the enemy torpedo, rescue planes were able to safely remove 168 crewmembers from the USS Cooper’s sinking hull. One hundred and ninety one crewmembers of the USS Cooper were lost at sea that day.
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.