USS Stembel DD-644 (1943-1975)
The USS Stembel was constructed by the Bath Iron Works based out of Maine. She was launched on May 8, 1943, and then commissioned on July 16 under the command of Commander T. H. Tonseth. The Stembel was named after an officer in the Navy during the Civil war, Roger. N. Stembel.
Action in World War II
Following her shakedown cruise and initial training on the East coast, the Stembel steamed toward Morocco along with another group of ships. She then began a tour which traveled towards San Diego via Hawaii, Trinidad, and the Panama Canal. After a brief layover in San Diego, the ship was ordered to Pearl Harbor, where she began supporting air strikes during the invasion of the Marshall Islands. She was assigned to guard the carriers in Task Force 48 and also acted as a patrol and convoy ship for this period of time.
In May of 1944, the Stembel became the flagship of the 16th Flotilla, which was ordered to attack Guam. The invasion force reached Eniwetok on July 15 and bombarded shore installments there for a period of time. Once the island was taken, she returned to Hawaii for an overhaul. Upon reaching Pearl Harbor, she also participated in amphibious training exercises.
In January 1945, the Stembel had become a member of the Lingayen Attack Force. She was a member of the force escorting the carriers, and was vital in the group’s defense. On January 8, the force was attacked by a number of Japanese planes, and the Stembel rescued over 300 men from the USS Kitkun Bay, which was hit by a kamikaze. Later, the Stembel was assigned to San Fernando Harbor, where she was ordered to attack enemy transports. Over the course of the next week, she sank an oiling ship, a cargo ship, and a 50-foot tugboat.
After the War
After the war ended, the Stembel was inactivated and decommissioned on May 31, 1946 in San Diego. She was then assigned to the Reserve Fleet, where she remained for six years, until November of 1951. She was then reactivated and participated in a few sorties in the Korean War. She was again decommissioned on May 27, 1958 and remained in the reserve fleet until being struck from the register in 1975 and sold for scrap in 1982.
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.