The USS Drexler (DD-741) was commissioned by the U.S. Navy during World War II and was sunk by Japanese aircraft off Okinawa. She was named for naval officer Henry Clay Drexler who received the Medal of Honor and the Navy Cross for heroism. Drexler was a member of the Allen M. Sumner class of destroyers.
Drexler was laid down at Bath, Maine by the Bath Iron Works Corporation in April 1944, launched in September, and commissioned in November with Commander R. L. Wilson in command. Carrying a crew of 336, Drexler was 376 feet, six inches in length and armed with ten 21-inch torpedo tubes, eleven 20-millimeter anti-aircraft guns, six five-inch anti-aircraft guns, and twelve 40-millimeter anti-aircraft guns. She was driven by General Electric geared turbines supporting a cruising speed of 36.5 knots and a range of 3,300 nautical miles at 20 knots.
Drexler sailed from Norfolk to Trinidad in January 1945 on an escort mission with Bon Homme Richard, and then arrived at San Diego in February. The destroyer departed for Pearl Harbor and conducted anti-aircraft and shore bombardment training exercises there. In preparation for the invasion of Okinawa, Drexler sailed to Guadalcanal and Ulithi on escort duty.
Drexler arrived at Okinawa in May and took up duty as a radar picket station. At the end of the month, Drexler and Lowry were struck by two kamikaze planes, the first of which was shot down, but the second failed to strike Lowry and hit Drexler. Power was cut off and gasoline fires burned the ship, but Drexler continued her counter-attack and shot down three more planes. Drexler was then struck by another aircraft followed by an explosion that caused her to roll and sink, resulting in 168 casualties. The destroyer was awarded one battle star for her service in World War II.
Asbestos Risk on the USS Drexler (DD-741)
Revolutionary developments in industrial economies in the 1800s led to the invention of boilers, steam engines, and other heavy equipment that necessitated the application of asbestos products. Both merchant and naval craft like Drexler employed asbestos products as insulation for their boilers and heavy equipment. Over time doctors began to understand that exposure to asbestos fibers was exceptionally dangerous, and asbestos use was restricted in the late 1970s. Science has established a correlation between inhaling asbestos fibers and the emergence of mesothelioma.
Many of Drexler’s crew went down with the ship when she sunk, but there were survivors. These brave sailors likely encountered significant exposure to asbestos during their service aboard, particularly those handling damage control. The law provides remedies to Navy veterans injured by asbestos during their service.
Haze Gray & Underway. Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships. DD-741.
NavSource Naval History. USS Drexler (DD-741).