The USS Jeffers DD-621 was named after Commodore William N. Jeffers (1824-1883) who was temporary commander of the USS Monitor and later become Chief of the Bureau of Ordinance. Weighing in at 1620 tons, the USS Jeffers is a Gleaves style destroyer and was built in New Jersey. The ship was commissioned in December of 1942 and was sent on its first escort mission to Morocco in February of 1943.
Action in World War II
After the escort mission to Morocco, the Jeffers spent a short period in early 1943 patrolling Newfoundland. She was sent across the Atlantic in June of 1943 to assist with the invasion of Italy, and remained in the area providing anti-submarine support until August.
After the Jeffers left Italy, she spent most of her time providing trans-Atlantic escorts to a variety of ships. It was called to serve again during the Invasion of Normandy in June of 1944. During the invasion, the Jeffers worked from “Utah” Beach and provided support and escort duty. After the invasion, the destroyer went to the Mediterranean to help with operations in Southern France. Soon after, the ship was converted into a minesweeping vessel and re-designated DMS-27 by late November 1944.
In January of 1945 the Jeffers was sent to the Pacific to help with the capture of Okinawa. The ship performed minesweeping and anti-submarine duties as well as radar work. She also played a prominent role in helping to defend the other ships against Japanese kamikaze planes. The Jeffers was in Tokyo Bay when Japan surrendered. After the official surrender, she spent the remainder of the year sweeping for mines around China and Japan.
After the War
The Jeffers returned to the Atlantic after this call of duty, and served there and in the Caribbean until 1954. During this period she made four trips to the Mediterranean. In 1955 she was reclassified as a destroyer and given back the designation DD-621. The ship was decommissioned from service the next year. She stayed listed as part of the Atlantic Reserve Fleet for 15 years, but was removed from the Naval Vessel register in 1971 and sold for scrap in 1973.
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.