Asbestos in the military

USS Benham (DD-397)

USS-Benham-(DD-397)Description:  History of the U.S. Navy destroyer USS Benham (DD-397) including information about asbestos exposure for workers.

The USS Benham (DD-397) was ordered for the U.S. Navy between World War I and World War II. Her keel was laid down by the Federal Shipbuilding and Dry Dock Company on September 1, 1936. She was launched on April 16, 1938 and commissioned on February 2, 1939 under the command of Lieutenant Commander T.F. Darden.

In her early career, USS Benham patrolled off Newfoundland before shifting her operations to the Gulf of Mexico. She was then transferred to the Pacific Fleet, arriving at Pearl Harbor on April 14, 1940. While there, she operated between Hawaii and California for many months. On November 28, 1941, the destroyer departed to escort the USS Enterprise for the delivery of Marine planes to Midway. She did not return from this task until the day after the Japanese attacked.

With the United States thrown into World War II, the USS Benham served with the USS Enterprise and the USS Saratoga in Hawaiian waters. She then operated with Task Force 16 during the Doolittle raid on Tokyo in April 1942.

During the Battle of Midway, USS Benham rescued 720 survivors from the carrier USS Yorktown and 188 more survivors from the destroyer USS Hamman. She remained with Task Force 16 for the troop landings on Guadalcanal and Tulagi in early August, and the Battle of the Eastern Solomons in late August.

On October 15, the USS Benham joined Task Force 64 to cover off Guadalcanal. One month later, she became involved in the Naval Battle of Guadalcanal. Shortly after midnight on November 15, the destroyer was hit by a torpedo forward. She lost her bow and was forced to withdraw from the battle. While attempting to make her way toward Guadalcanal during the day, it became apparent that she could go no further. The order came down to abandon ship. The destroyer USS Gwin picked up the surviving crew members and sank her with shell-fire. USS Benham earned five battle stars for her service during World War II.

Like other ships of her time, the USS Benham was built using a number of asbestos-containing materials. Prized for its resistance to heat, water, fire, and corrosion, the toxic substance asbestos could be found in virtually all areas of the destroyer, including plumbing, engine rooms, turbines, incinerators, boilers, fire doors, floor and ceiling tiles, and wall insulation. Anyone who served onboard the USS Benham or participated in her repair and overhaul was put at risk of developing serious asbestos-related illnesses like lung cancer, asbestosis, throat cancer, stomach cancer,  colon cancer, rectal cancer, or mesothelioma, a rare but deadly form of cancer that attacks the protective lining surrounding the lungs and other organs.

USS Benham workers should monitor their health carefully, and consult a doctor if they experience any symptoms associated with mesothelioma.  Anyone who worked in or around the USS Benham, and is diagnosed with mesothelioma, should also consider contacting a lawyer to discuss their legal rights.

Other Benham class destroyers include:

USS Ellet (DD-398)

USS Lang (DD-399)

USS Mayrant (DD-402)

USS Rhind (DD-404)

USS Rowan (DD-405)

USS Stack (DD-406)

USS Trippe (DD-403)

USS Wilson (DD-408

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