The USS Southerland (DD-743) served in the U.S. Navy for over three and a half decades in the mid- to late-20th century. She was named for Rear Admiral William Henry Hudson Sutherland who served during the Spanish-American War and as Commander-in-Chief, Pacific Fleet. Southerland was built as a Gearing-class naval destroyer.
Southerland was laid down at Bath, Maine by the Bath Iron Works Corporation in May 1944, launched in October, and commissioned in December with Commander Russell C. Williams in command. Carrying a crew of 336, Southerland had a displacement of 3,460 tons and was armed with ten 21-inch torpedo tubes, eleven 20-millimeter anti-aircraft guns, six five-inch anti-aircraft guns, and twelve 40-millimeter anti-aircraft guns.
Southerland sailed for the Pacific in February 1945 and arrived at Pearl Harbor in May. She then began service in the Philippines in June, with aircraft carriers of Task Force 38, for raids on Japan. Southerland protected the carriers during the air strikes on Japanese industrial targets and then patrolled off the coast of Japan in August. The destroyer covered troop landings for the occupation and returned to the United States in January 1946.
Southerland remained at San Diego for much of the year, and sailed for the central Pacific in November. By February 1947, Southerland was assigned to operations off the China coast until June, but returned from June 1948 to February 1949. Southerland was re-designated DDR-743 in March and stayed at Hawaii until late June 1950, when she was deployed for patrol and bombardment duties during the Korean War. The destroyer served three tours of duty, during which she alternated between combat duty and service off Japan, and returned home in October 1952.
Southerland returned to the western Pacific several times thereafter with the 7th Fleet. In 1962, Southerland participated in the operations during upper atmosphere nuclear tests at Christmas Island. The destroyer then underwent an FRAM, Mark I overhaul at Mare Island Navy Yard, was reclassified as DD-743 in April 1964, and then deployed for combat during the Vietnam War, where she served several tours and completed her last operations there in late 1970.
Southerland was overhauled at the Long Beach Naval Shipyard from June to November 1971, and then trained naval reservists off the west coast and with the 7th Fleet. Decommissioned and struck from the Navy list in February 1981, Southerland was designated a training target in 1983 and sunk in August 1997.
Asbestos Risk on the USS Southerland (DD-743)
Asbestos was found nearly everywhere aboard Southerland. The fibrous mineral insulated steam pipes and boilers, protected engines and turbines, and was used as a packing material for pumps and valves. Because it was used in so many applications, nearly every sailor serving on Southerland was exposed during the course of normal duty. Boiler tenders, engineers, mechanics, and similar job classifications had the greatest exposure.
The Southerland was in active use for nearly 40 years. That long service history means that many Navy veterans were potentially exposed to asbestos products installed on the vessel. Sailors and shipyard workers involved in her FRAM overhaul likely suffered additional exposure, as handling worn and damaged asbestos materials is very likely to release clouds of tiny asbestos fibers into the air. The workers performing repairs and refits often had little or no protection against inhaling those fibers. Breathing asbestos fibers has been linked to the development of mesothelioma cancer.Sources
Haze Gray & Underway. Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships. DD-743.
http://www.hazegray.org/danfs/destroy/dd743txt.htm) Retrieved 12 February 2011.
NavSource Naval History. USS Southerland (DD-743).
http://www.navsource.org/archives/05/743.htm) Retrieved 12 February 2011.