The USS Satterlee (DD-626), a Gleaves-class destroyer, was built by the Seattle-Tacoma Shipbuilding Corp., Seattle, Washington and was launched July 17, 1942. Her commissioning date was July 1, 1943, her first commanding officer, Lt. Commander Joseph F. Witherow, Jr.
Action in World War II
The Satterle began her career as an escort for the HMS Victorious, a British aircraft carrier, en route from the west coast of the U.S. to the Atlantic. She was then assigned on August 26, 1943 to the U.S. Atlantic Fleet. She acted as escort to two convoys to Casablanca, then trained off Casco Bay, Maine, after which she was assigned in April 1944 as an escort to Texas (BB-35) and Arkansas (BB-33), bound for Belfast, Ireland.
The Satterlee trained for special assignment in preparation for the Normandy landings beginning in May. She was to support landings for an Army ranger unit of 200, tasked with eliminating a German emplacement at Pointe du Hoc. She escorted minesweepers on night duty from June 5-6, then proceeded to fire on Pointe du Hoc early on June 6. The Satterlee provided cover from enemy gunfire for the Rangers as they landed.
German forces offered strong resistance, even though it was discovered that they had emptied the emplacement of guns prior to the landings. The Satterlee continued to fire on German positions for the remainder of the day. She continued providing support at Normandy for 40 days, then on August 15, 1944 she was attached to forces arriving at Saint-Tropez, France. During a night attack, the Satterlee sank a German torpedo boat from a force of five boats, rescuing 12 German survivors.
Reporting back to Casco Bay in October 1944, the Satterlee participated in training. Her next assignment was to escort President Franklin D. Roosevelt aboard Quincy (CA-71). Bound for the Yalta Conference in Bermuda, she provided round trip escort from Norfolk to Bermuda. On May 16, 1945, the Satterlee arrived at Pearl Harbor, assigned as a school ship for gunnery training. She also performed escort duty for the Saratoga, the Wasp, and the Hancock for both day and night time flight operations.
The Satterlee departed Pearl Harbor, assigned to rescue patrol duty off Okinawa and Saipan. She remained at this assignment for several months until returning to the U.S. for decommissioning, sailing for home on November 9, 1945. The Satterlee was taken out of commission March 16, 1946, designated under reserve status at Charleston, South Carolina and struck from the Naval Vessel Register December 1, 1970.
For service in World War II, the Satterlee was awarded two battle stars.
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.