The USS Downes (DD-375) served in the U.S. Navy for approximately one decade during the first half of the 20th century. She was named for John Downes, who served with the U.S. Navy during the War of 1812. Downes was built as a Mahan-class ship.
Downes was laid down in Norfolk, Virginia at the Norfolk Navy Yard in August 1934. She was launched in April 1936 and commissioned in January 1937, with Commander C. H. Roper at the helm. Downes carried a crew of 158 and could maintain a cruising speed of 36.5 knots. She was armed with five five-inch anti-aircraft guns, four half-inch machine guns, and twelve 21-inch torpedo tubes.
Upon commissioning Downes set sail for San Diego for exercises along the west coast. In April 1940, she transferred to Pearl Harbor.
During the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, Downes was in drydock along with Pennsylvania and Cassin. A bomb struck near Downes, starting a massive fire (fueled by oil onboard the ships). As the ships’ crews worked to repel the attacking planes, the drydock was flooded in an effort to put out the fires. The burning oil, however, burned out of control and the ammunition aboard the ships soon exploded. The ships were abandoned, and Downes was considered a total loss. She was decommissioned on June 20, 1942.
In November 1943, Downes was recommissioned at Mare Island after a period of rebuilding. In the following months she engaged in operations around Majuro, Wotje Atoll, and Eniwetok. In 1944, Downes assisted in operations at Marpi Point (including a bombardment of Aguijan Island). She was also part of the bombardment of Marcus Island in October 1944 and assisted in an operation designed to lure Japanese ships into open waters.
After an overhaul at Pearl Harbor, Downes arrived in Ulithi in March 1945. She served at both the Marianas and Iwo Jima in June, and later carried U.S. servicemen home from Iwo Jima.
Downes arrived back in U.S. waters in November 1945. She was decommissioned in December 1945. After receiving four battle stars for service in World War II, Downes was eventually broken apart and sold for scrap.
Asbestos Risk on the USS Downes (DD-375)
Asbestos has been used widely in industrial settings since the 19th century, when it was used for insulation and fireproofing. The use of asbestos insulation in the design of oceangoing ships was required by law in the United States in the 1930s, after a deadly fire aboard a cruise ship resulted in enormous loss of life. From the early 20th century until the late 1970s, asbestos was used extensively aboard U.S. Navy ships, including the USS Downes, to wrap pipes, line boilers, and insulate components of ship’s engines and turbines. After that time, the use of asbestos was phased out on naval vessels and modern ships do not contain asbestos in any significant quantities.
Asbestos falls into two broad categories, amphibole and serpentine. Amphibole forms of asbestos generally have shorter, needle-like fibers, while serpentine forms of asbestos have long, curling fibers. There are a number of specific minerals within each family, but the most commonly-used serpentine asbestos is chrysotile and the most commonly-seen amphibole form is amosite. Both amosite and chrysotile, as well as less common types, were used widely aboard naval vessels like the Downes and both are known to cause mesothelioma.
If you served in the United States Navy and have been diagnosed with mesothelioma you may be interested in learning more about the disease and your legal rights. Please fill out the brief form on this page and we will send you some helpful information right away.Sources
Haze Gray & Underway. Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships. DD-375.
NavSource Naval History, USS Downes (DD-375).