The USS Gilmer (DD-233) served in the US Navy for nearly three decades in the early 20th century. She was named for Thomas Walker Gilmer who served as Secretary of the Navy under President John Tyler. Gilmer was designed as a Clemson-class vessel.
Gilmer was laid down in Camden, New Jersey by the New York Shipbuilding Company in June 1918, launched in May 1919, and commissioned in April 1920, with Lieutenant Harold J. Wright in command. Carrying a crew of 114, Gilmer was 314 feet, five inches long and armed with four five-inch rapid-fire guns, one three-inch anti-aircraft gun, and twelve 21-inch torpedo tubes.
Following two voyages from New York to European and Mediterranean ports, Gilmer conducted training exercises on the east coast of the United States, in the Caribbean, and on the west coast from August 1923 until 1938. During this deployment, Gilmer operated off Nicaragua during a civil war in 1926, escorted Texas, which carried President Coolidge to Havana in 1928, and also operated in the Caribbean for disaster relief work.
Gilmer was decommissioned at Philadelphia in August 1938 until September 1939, and was assigned the flagship of the Atlantic Fleet Destroyer Division. She patrolled the Atlantic and Caribbean and continued this duty on the west coast out of San Diego beginning in November 1940. When the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, Gilmer began anti-submarine patrol and escort duties until November 1942. Re-designated APD-11 in January 1943, Gilmer escorted Espiritu Santo and began amphibious training with the 4th marine Raider Battalion.
In April, Gilmer conducted anti-submarine patrols off Tulagi, and was the flagship of Transport Division 16. Gilmer operated as an escort and patrol between Australia and New Guinea in 1943 and also supported several troop landings, including the 1st Marine Division at Cape Gloucester, New Britain and at Saidon and Finschhafen in New Guinea. She also bombarded Humboldt Bay in April 1944.
Gilmer operated at Iwo Jima prior to the battle there in February and screened Tennessee during operations during the attack, and also took part in the Okinawa battle in March 1945, where she was struck by a kamikaze plane. In April, Gilmer sailed to Pearl Harbor for repairs, and then returned to Okinawa for patrol duty. Gilmer then conducted anti-submarine missions with convoys from the Philippines to Okinawa, and served as an escort and patrol ship along the China coast. She was decommissioned at Philadelphia in February 1946 and sold for scrap in December.
Asbestos Risk on the USS Gilmer (DD-233)
The installation of asbestos in the construction of naval ships was mandated by the US Congress in the early 1930s, after a fire at sea on the SS Morro Castle resulted in great loss of life. Vessels like Gilmer used asbestos insulation frequently, especially in ship's boilers and engine spaces, and to insulate steam pipes in all sections of the ship. The damage caused by asbestos fibers happens when very small particles are inhaled; the fibers invade the lungs and mesothelium and sometimes the stomach, causing scarring in the case of asbestosis and damage at the DNA level in the case of lung cancer and mesothelioma.
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Haze Gray & Underway. Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships. DD-233.
http://www.hazegray.org/danfs/destroy/dd233txt.htm Retrieved 29 December 2010.
NavSource Naval History, USS Gilmer (DD-233).
http://www.navsource.org/archives/05/233.htm Retrieved 29 December 2010.