USS Edsall (DD-219)
The USS Edsall (DD-219) served in the US Navy for over two decades in the early 20th century, and received two battle stars for her service in World War II. Edsall was named for Norman Eckley Edsall, a sailor in the US Navy during the Spanish-American War, and was laid down as a Clemson-class ship.
Edsall was laid down in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania by the William Cramp & Sons Ship & Engine Building Company in September 1919, launched in July 1920, and commissioned in November with Commander A.H. Rice in command. Carrying a crew of 114, Edsall was 314 feet, five inches long and was armed with four 4-inch rapid-fire guns, one three-inch anti-aircraft gun, and twelve 21-inch torpedo tubes.
Edsall departed Philadelphia in December 1920 and arrived at San Diego in January 1921, conducted battle practice on the west coast until December, and returned to Charleston, South Carolina in December. In May 1922, Edsall was deployed to the Mediterranean and operated in Turkish waters during the civil war in Russia and Greek war with Turkey. Edsall helped to alleviate the famine in Europe following World War I as well as evacuated refugees from Greece and established a center of communications in the region.
Edsall sailed for Boston, Massachusetts in July 1924 for overhaul, and was then deployed to the Asiatic Fleet for operation in China, the Philippines, and Japan. Following the Japanese Pearl Harbor attack, Edsall left Balikpapan, Borneo for Singapore and searched for survivors of HMS Prince of Wales and HMS Repulse. She then escorted shipping to Darwin, Australia. During this deployment, Edsall was the first United States destroyer to sink a full-sized enemy submarine in World War II.
While on escort duty in February 1942, Edsall was damaged by a prematurely exploded depth charge, but continued to operate off Java. Edsall picked up survivors of USS Langley following a bomber attack, and attempted to transfer them to USS Pecos near Christmas Island, a job that had to be finished on March 1, 1942 in the wake of Japanese bomber attacks. That same day, Edsall was sunk by the Japanese battleships Hiei and Kirishima.
Asbestos Risk on the USS Edsall (DD-219)
The installation of asbestos in the construction of oceangoing vessels was required by law in the US in the 1930s, after a deadly fire on a cruise ship resulted in great loss of life. Vessels like Edsall installed asbestos insulation frequently in boilers and engineering rooms, as well as to insulate pipes in the other sections of the ship. The mineral asbestos was known even in ancient times for its resistance to fire and heat, but it has also been shown to be the primary cause of debilitating illnesses like asbestos cancer and pleural mesothelioma.
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Haze Gray & Underway. Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships. DD-219.
http://www.hazegray.org/danfs/destroy/dd219txt.htm Retrieved 28 December 2010.
NavSource Naval History, USS Edsall (DD-219).
http://www.navsource.org/archives/05/219.htm Retrieved 28 December 2010.