USS Selfridge DD 357 (1936-1945)

The naval vessel, the Selfridge, was named after Rear Admiral Thomas O. Selfridge who served from 1818 to 1866, and his son, also Thomas O. Selfridge, who served during the Civil War and retired as Commander in Chief of the European Squadron in 1898. The ship was built in 1933 by the New York Shipbuilding Corporation in New Jersey and commissioned on 25 November, 1936.

Action in World War II

The Selfridge spent 2 years in the Mediterranean and along the east coast, conducting training exercises and presidential escort duties before sailing through the Panama Canal and joining Destroyer Squadron 4 in San Diego as their flagship. In 1940, she was sent to Pearl Harbor and was there during the bombing on 7 December 1941, where she fired on the enemy planes as they attacked. During 1942, the Selfridge escorted ships to Canton, Bremerton, Christmas Islands, Bora Bora, and Australia. In August 1942, as part of Task Force 44, she participated in Operation Watchtower, the attack on Guadalcanal and Tulagi. The Selfridge stayed with TF-44, patrolling the Coral Sea, until March 1943 when she was assigned to the 3rd Fleet in Noumea. On 6 October, the Selfridge, along with 2 other ships, the Chevalier and the O'Bannon, came across a Japanese force of several ships, destroyers, destroyer transports, and smaller ships; this became the Battle of Vella Lavella. The Chevalier was torpedoed and had to be sunk. The Selfridge was also torpedoed and the O'Bannon damaged as well. The Selfridge suffered casualties, with 36 missing, 11 wounded, and 13 killed. The Selfridge needed to return to the states for repairs, then was sent back to Pearl Harbor in May, 1944 where she was assigned to Task Force 58. The Selfridge participated in patrols at Guam and Saipan where she helped land assault troops. On 19 June, the Selfridge took part in the Battle of the Philippine Sea. The Selfridge then moved on to help with the attack on Guam in July. Following Guam, she went back to Pearl Harbor where, in August, she was sent back to the Atlantic. Back in New York, the Selfridge joined Task Force 65 as their flagship. She then served as an escort for convoys to Tunisia. After the fall of Berlin in May 1945, the Selfridge participated in training exercises in Maine and the Caribbean until she was decommissioned on 15 October 1945. She was sold and taken out of Navy custody in 1946, then scrapped in October 1947. For her service in World War II, the Selfridge was awarded four 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.