The USS Pillsbury (DD-227) was named for John E. Pillsbury, one of the world’s foremost experts on the Gulf Stream and geography in his time. The USS Pillsbury was commissioned on December 15, 1920 under the command of Lieutenant H. W. Barnes. The Pillsbury spent much of her early years of service operating with the Asiatic Fleet; she was in the vicinity of Pearl Harbor when the Japanese attacked on December 7, 1941.
Action in World War II
Once war broke out, the Pillsbury began her service with other Allied vessels near Balikpapan, performing reconnaissance missions and patrolling for enemy submarines. Their second cruise took them to Surabaya and Java for night patrols. During this time, the Pillsbury worked with the cruisers the Houston and the Marblehead, as well as destroyers in Division 58. While working with this Division, the Pillsbury saw some action in the Badoeng Straight on February 4, 1942. While there, she fired three torpedoes on a ship and missed the vessel. The Japanese ship returned fire but was also unable to make contact. Both boats left the vicinity unscathed.
From there she was sent to Bali, where Japanese forces came attempted to come ashore. Her mission was to prevent and block future landings. Later that month she spotted and fired upon another Japanese ship. After several confirmed hits, she was able to permanently disable the vessel. From there she was sent in to port for a much needed overhaul. She was running low on ammunition and in need of repair from damage she received in battle. She was sent to Tjilatjap for repairs and servicing.
Just a few days later she met with a disastrous end to her short, but successful career. Due to a lack of records, all that is known of the Pillsbury’s fate is that she was cruising with the Asheville and Edsall during a time when there was known to have been a large fleet of Japanese ships in the same area. After interrogating Japanese officers following the incident, it was discovered that Pillsbury and Asheville were sunk by a combined force from the fleet. The Edsall was the last to be destroyed. None of the crewmembers of any of the three ships survived. The Pillsbury received two battle stars for her service in World War II.
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.