The USS Tillman (DD-641) was commissioned by the U.S. Navy during the Second World War and remained on the Navy list until June 1970. She was named for Benjamin Ryan Tillman who served as Governor of South Carolina and then as Chairman of the Senate Naval Affairs Committee. Tillman was laid down as a Gleaves-class destroyer.
Tillman was laid down at Charleston, South Carolina by the Charleston Navy Yard in May 1941, launched in December, and commissioned in June 1942 with Lieutenant Commander Francis Douglas McCorkle in command. Carrying a crew of 208, Tillman was armed with ten 21-inch torpedo tubes, four five-inch anti-aircraft guns, and six one-half inch machine guns.
Tillman conducted training and convoy escort service along the east coast before being deployed for the invasion of North Africa in October 1942. In November, the destroyer began screening troop transports of the Center Attack Group off the African coast, and engaged in combat with enemy vessel W-48, which subsequently exploded and beached. Tillman attacked several other enemy ships during the operation, and served in the area until November.
Tillman arrived at New York in December participated in fleet exercises off the Maine coast. She sideswiped a vessel during rough seas in February 1943, and after repairs at New York, resumed escort duties with the Eastern Sea Frontier. In the spring, Tillman served convoy duty in the Atlantic and Mediterranean, and then screened a convoy to the invasion of Sicily in July. During this deployment, Tillman fired on enemy beach defenses to protect troops.
Tillman remained on escort duty in the Mediterranean and Atlantic for the rest of 1943. In November, Tillman downed several enemy planes as torpedoes exploded nearby. Beatty and merchant freighter SS Santa Elena were both sunk during this incident. Tillman resumed convoy escort service in December and throughout 1944.
In early 1945, Tillman participated in fleet exercises in the Caribbean and off the east coast, and was then deployed to Pearl Harbor in late April. Tillman was assigned to life guard and anti-submarine duties off Guam and Ulithi during this deployment. After Japan surrendered, Tillman remained in the Carolines and southern Mariana Islands until November. Tillman was decommissioned in February 1947 and sold for scrap to Southern Scrap Materials Company in May 1972.
Asbestos Risk on the USS Tillman (DD-641)
Since asbestos had many uses, the toxic fibers could be found almost everywhere on naval vessels. Areas on Tillman containing pumps and engines often contained additional asbestos-based insulation. Parts of Tillman that created a great deal of heat, like the boiler room and engineering sections, used asbestos as fireproofing as well as for insulation.
Because asbestos products were used throughout the vessel, just about everyone in the crew suffered at least some exposure. Sailors assigned to the engine room, as machinists, putting out fires, or conducting repairs were more likely to inhale asbestos dust during the course of their duties. Maritime exposure to asbestos has caused many Navy veterans to develop mesothelioma. There are legal options for those affected by this cancer and other diseases known to be caused by asbestos.Sources
Haze Gray & Underway. Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships. DD-641.
http://www.hazegray.org/danfs/destroy/dd641txt.htm) Retrieved 29 January 2011.
NavSource Naval History. USS Tillman (DD-641).
http://www.navsource.org/archives/05/641.htm) Retrieved 29 January 2011.