The USS Sterett was a Benham-class destroyer that was used in the United States Navy from 1936 to 1947. She was named after Andrew Sterett, a lieutenant in the United States Navy. During the years prior to World War II, the Sterett guarded planes for the aircraft carrier Enterprise and spent the rest of her time training. In June of 1940, she left for Hawaii with “Enterprise” along with five other destroyers. She arrived at Pearl Harbor on July 2. For the next ten months, the Sterett was used in various exercises and patrol operations. Additionally, the Sterett screened many ships in 1941.
Action in World War II
During World War II, she left Bermuda after Japan attacked Pearl Harbor. She was accompanied by a number of other destroyers and to be used in a counter attack if Vichy French ships, anchored at Martinique, proceeded with any action.
The Sterett spent most of 1942 patrolling the eastern seaboard. During the rest of 1942 and 1943, she was used to support Allied forces on their routes through the Solomon Island and the Bismark Archipelago, and also participated in battles with Japan. She assisted in several important war maneuvers, including depth-charging a sound contact, which was probably the submarine which sank the Juneau. Shortly thereafter, she returned to Pearl Harbor, resuming her original duties of guarding convoys in the Solomons-Bismarks area and conducting regular patrols.
In 1944, the Sterett remained mainly at Pearl Harbor, but additionally spent some time at the Puget Sound Navy Yard. Later in 1945 she returned to San Pedro Bay, where she destroyed one plane and assisted in destroying two others. She finished up the year by patrolling the waters of the Central and South Pacific.
In 1945 the Sterett was in Okinawa to serve as a radar picket ship. In April, she was hit by a kamikaze. Five enemy plans attempted to destroy her; many of them were shot down but one smashed into the starboard side of the ship, causing the ship to lose steering control, electricity, and communications capabilities.
After the War
After the war, the ship underwent extensive repairs and in November she was decommissioned in New York City, and was then bought for scrapping by the Northern Metal Company of Pennsylvania in 1947. For her years of service, the USS Sterett earned 12 battle stars. Additionally, she received the Philippine Republic Presidential Unit Citation.
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.