The USS Meredith DD-434 was the second of four destroyers to bear the name. She was built at the Boston Naval Shipyard and launched on April 24, 1940. It would be nearly another year before she was commissioned and Lieutenant Commander William F. Mendenhall, Jr., placed in command.
Action in World War II
After a shakedown cruise near Cuba, the Meredith was assigned to patrol with the Destroyer Division 22. In September of 1941, she was sent to Iceland, where she was based out of Hvalfjörður and sailed the Denmark Straits, once rescuing the survivors of a struck British ship. After the U.S. entered the war, she continued to patrol the waters around Iceland, fighting submarines and escorting other ships, until returning to the east coast in February of 1942.
The Meredith left Norfolk, Virginia, with Task Force 18 and set sail for the Pacific. She was part of the Doolittle Raid on Tokyo, the first U.S. air attack on the Japanese home islands. This raid not only improved morale for the Allied troops, but also showed that the Japanese were not impervious to attack. After that, the ship performed escort duties throughout the Pacific, including New Caledonia, Samoa, and the Solomon Islands.
Destruction at Vanuatu
Under the command of Commander Harry E. Hubbard, the Meredith left the island of Espiritu Santu in a convoy toting gasoline and explosives to the troops at Guadalcanal. While underway, the convoy learned of the presence of Japanese ships in the area, and though the fuel was badly needed, all but the Meredith and one other ship turned back. The sister ship was struck and the Meredith took on her survivors, but was soon attacked by Japanese planes.
Two bombs and a torpedo took out the ship’s communication, steering, and ammunition, and another 12 bombs and six torpedoes sent her to the bottom. Only 87 men survived the attack and the subsequent three days in the ocean before help came. The Meredith earned one battle star for her service.
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.