The USS Butler (DD-636) served in the U.S. Navy for approximately three years during the first half of the 20th century. She was named for Smedley D. Butler, who served with the U.S. Navy during the Spanish-American War. Butler was built as a Gleaves-class destroyer.
Butler was laid down in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania at the Philadelphia Navy Yard in September 1941. She was launched in February 1942 and commissioned in August 1942, with Lieutenant Commander M.D. Matthews at the helm. Butler carried a crew of 208 and had a cruising speed of 35 knots. She was armed with four five-inch anti-aircraft guns, six half-inch machine guns, and ten 21-inch torpedo tubes.
Butler began her military service running escort missions throughout the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico. In January 1943, she first ventured farther afield: to Casablanca, Morocco and Dakar (part of what was then called French West Africa). While in Africa, Butler escorted two Free French vessels (Richelieu and Montcalm) back to New York.
After a brief period of state-side convoy work, Butler headed to the Mediterranean in June. From Bizerte, she participated in the summer invasion of Sicily, bombarding Gela and running escort missions.
In May 1944, Butler shipped out once again, this time to support the invasion at Normandy. During the battle, she screened heavy units of the bombardment group and served as the inshore fire support station. Following the invasion, Butler returned to the U.S., arriving at the port of New York.
In October 1944, Butler was converted into a high-speed minesweeper under the classification DMS-29. In December, she shipped off for the Pacific. Butler’s first mission in the Pacific was to serve on screen and picket duty for the assault on Okinawa. It was during this action, on May 25, 1945, that Butler was struck by bombs dropped from a kamikaze plane. The forward fire room flooded, and all power was lost.
The ship hobbled back to Kerama Retto for temporary repairs, but never served in battle again. She was decommissioned upon her return to the US later in 1945. In 1948, after receiving four battle stars and a Navy Unit Commendation for services in World War II, she was sold for scrap.
Asbestos Risk on the USS Butler (DD-636)
Extensive asbestos use began in the U.S. during the Industrial Revolution, and until recent times was heavily utilized in factories and construction sites across the country. Because of its unique fire-retardant capabilities, the use of asbestos insulation in the construction of military vessels like Butler was actually mandated by law during the 1930's. Asbestos-containing materials were also frequently employed in shipyards and shore installations for the same reason. In this manner, most crewmen working on board Butler were likely exposed to asbestos to some degree, and dockyard personnel also ran a high risk of exposure on the job.
Airborne asbestos fibers, inadvertently inhaled or ingested, often become trapped in the lungs, stomach, or other organs. Once inside the body, these fibers can over time lead to the formation of scar tissue (causing pleural plaque) or damage to the DNA (causing mesothelioma).
If you think you, or someone you know, may have been exposed to asbestos and you would like to receive more information on mesothelioma treatment, or your legal options, please complete our online contact form and we will send you our comprehensive information packet free of charge.Sources
Haze Gray & Underway. Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships. DD-636.
NavSource Naval History, USS Butler (DD-636).