The Clemson class destroyer USS Sturtevant DD-240 was laid down November 23, 1918. She was built in New York and launched on July 29, 1920. The vessel was 314 feet four inches in length and weighed 1,215 tons. The Sturtevant had a complement for 130 officers and enlisted men. Lieutenant Commander Haas was the first in command of the Sturtevant when she was commissioned on September 21.
Between the Wars
After sailing to New York City she left there on November 30, 1920 where she joined the U.S. Naval Forces. She then reached Spalato, her new base in the Adriatic Sea where she conducted various missions during the following six months. During the following months the Sturtevant made passages across the Black Sea to numerous Russian ports. In July she then returned to the U.S. and was overhauled.
In January 1925 she entered the Pacific where she headed for the Hawaiian Islands. From May 1926 to January 1931, she once again worked with the Atlantic Fleet. In January 1931 she was taken out of commission at Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. On March 9, 1932, she was recommissioned and sailed to the Canal Zone. For the following two years she plied the waters of the Caribbean and the Gulf. She was a strong support for the activities of the Marines in a number of Latin American republics. She was once again decommissioned on November 20, 1935.
Destruction at Key West
On September 26, 1939 she was recommissioned once again. During the following months she escorted convoys. On April 26, 1942 she sailed from Key West accompanying a convoy. Two hours after leaving port she was hit with a violent explosion. However, there did not appear to be any damage. Moments later a second explosion severely rocked the ship. She seemed once again to be okay. However, minutes later the third explosion caused major damage to the Sturtevant causing the midships section to sink.
Slowly the Sturtevant sunk below the surface. Though many of the crew members were rescued, 15 men had been lost along with the ship. It was learned later that she had passed through a minefield laid by the Americans. Unfortunately none of the crew had been notified of its presence. The USS Sturtevant DD-240 was removed from the Navy List on May 8, 1942.
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.