The USS Mannert L. Abele (DD-733) served in the U.S. Navy during World War II before being sunk during a kamikaze attack off Okinawa. She was named for Lieutenant Commander Mannert Lincoln Abele who served at the start of the Second World War. Mannert L. Abele was laid down as an Allen M. Sumner-class destroyer.
Mannert L. Abele was laid down at Bath, Maine by the Bath Iron Works Corporation in December 1943, launched in April 1944, and commissioned in July with Commander Alton E. Parker in command. Carrying a crew of 336, Mannert L. Abele was 376 feet, six inches long, with a displacement of 3,218 tons, and armed with ten 21-inch torpedo tubes, six five-inch anti-aircraft guns, twelve 40-millimeter anti-aircraft guns, and eleven 20-millimeter anti-aircraft guns.
Mannert L. Abele was assigned to crew training in Chesapeake Bay before being deployed to the Pacific and arrived at Pearl Harbor in November 1944. The destroyer sailed for the western Pacific in December with a convoy, and returned to base two weeks later to be converted into a fighter-director ship with radio and radar equipment designed for radar picket operations. Mannert L. Abele served during the invasion of Iwo Jima in January 1945 and then protected troop transport vessels, conducted shore bombardments, and fired on enemy installations to protect troops onshore. In late-February, Mannert L. Abele continued her radar and picket duty.
Mannert L. Abele conducted these specialized operations at the Ryukyus Islands in March, and then participated in the invasion of Okinawa in April, where she battled Japanese attack planes. Following the initial assault, Mannert L. Abele conducted radar picket duty and was finally struck by three kamikazes after a group of enemy planes circled outside firing range for some time. Engineering systems were destroyed and the ship lost all power, and then a bomb split Mannert L. Abele into two pieces. Both sections of Mannert L. Abele then sank. Crew members left in the water were attacked further, but survivors were rescued by LSMR-189 and LSMR-190. Mannert L. Abele received two battle stars for her service in the war.
Asbestos Risk on the USS Mannert L. Abele (DD-733)
Because asbestos material was used almost everywhere on naval vessels of this era, nearly every World War II Navy veteran was exposed to the mineral. Asbestos damaged in combat was particularly dangerous, exposing sailors to clouds of tiny airborne fibers. While many of Abele’s crew were lost in battle, surviving veterans of the ship may have endured increased exposure during the fight to save her.
Areas of Mannert L. Abele that produced large amounts of heat (such as engineering and the boiler room) used asbestos materials as fireproof insulation. Steam ducts sheathed in asbestos insulation ran through nearly every section of the vessel. Engineering personnel typically had the highest level of exposure. Inhaling asbestos fibers has been linked to a number of serious diseases, including mesothelioma.Sources
Haze Gray & Underway. Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships. DD-733.
NavSource Naval History. USS Mannert L. Abele (DD-733).