The USS Palmer was constructed by the Fore River Shipbuilding Co. based in Quincy, MA. Her namesake was Rear Admiral James. S. Palmer, who was an officer in the U.S. Navy during the Civil War. After being laid down on May 29th, 1918, she was commissioned under the command of Commander R. R. Stewart on November 22nd, 1918.
The Palmer underwent an intense training and shakedown period, after which she joined the Pacific Fleet. During the first few years of service, she served as a patrol ship, and also participated in other fleet operations. She was decommissioned on May 31st, 1922 at San Diego, and reassigned to the Reserve Fleet. She remained in reserve for nearly two decades, until August 7th, 1940, whereupon she was re-commissioned. Following reactivation, the Palmer was converted into a minesweeper, and re-designated as DMS-5 on November 19th, 1940. She was then ordered to the Atlantic, where she was assigned to Mine Division 19. During the next few years, she conducted neutrality patrols on the East coast until the United States joined World War II.
Action in World War II
On October 24th, 1942, the Palmer engaged enemies while protecting Task Force 24 during the invasion of Africa. She made several minesweeping runs in the area, before settling at an anti-submarine post. During this period of time, the USS Palmer also took a French ship, the J. Elise, and attacked several shore emplacements. After the initial invasions of North Africa, the Palmer remained in the area as a patrol and convoy ship.
The Palmer later returned to the east coast, committed to escort duty. Later, however, she was assigned to Task Force 53 in the Pacific, and steamed to the assault on Kwajalein on January 22nd, 1944. The Palmer stayed nearby the Marshall Islands after the attack, screening other ships, and escorting transports to Majuro and Pearl Harbor. On July 22nd, 1944, the Palmer sailed to Guam, where she was again given escort and screening duty.
On December 23rd, the Palmer headed for Lingayen Gulf, where she continued to carry out minesweeping operations. Accompanied by several other minesweepers, the Palmer managed to enter Lingayen Gulf on January 7th, 1945. However, as they conducted their minesweeping operation, enemy air attacks began harassing the ships. At 6:40 pm, a bomber hit the Palmer with two bombs portside, sinking the ship in 6 minutes.
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.