Asbestos in the military

USS Benson (DD-421)

USS_Benson_DD-421Description:  History of the U.S. Navy destroyer USS Benson (DD-421) including information about asbestos exposure for workers.

The USS Benson (DD-421) was ordered for the U.S. Navy in 1938. Her keel was laid down by the Bethlehem Steel Company on May 16, 1938. She was launched on November 15, 1939 and commissioned on July 25, 1940 under the command of Commander Clifford A. Fines.

After shakedown, USS Benson visited Quantico and Washington, D.C. before sailing south to Cayenne, French Guiana. Her mission there was to check for Axis activity there and in Suriname, protecting Allied interests in bauxite and aluminum there. The destroyer returned north t Brooklyn Navy Yard for overhaul in October 1940.

On November 18, the USS Benson headed out for neutrality patrol. During this time, she escorted President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s yacht, the USS Potomac, on a fishing trip to the Bahamas. In May, she screened the battleship USS Texas in the North Atlantic, looking for the German battleship Bismarck on her journey. The British Royal Navy sank the German battleship on May 27.

USS Benson began a new mission on June 28, joining Task Force 19 to transport Marines to Iceland in order to free up British troops. She continued her operations in the Atlantic up until and after the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, shifting from neutrality patrol to Allied support. The destroyer escorted convoys to the British Isles, the Panama Canal Zone, and Bermuda until late 1942.

As the invasion of North Africa drew near, known as Operation Torch, the USS Benson began preparations to aid in shore bombardment. She was on her way to Casco Bay for bombardment exercises when she collided with the destroyer USS Trippe on October 19, killing four men and injuring three others aboard the other ship. While USS Benson did not suffer any casualties from the incident, she required repairs that kept her laid up until after the troops had landed in North Africa.

Once her yard work was done, USS Benson continued escorting convoys in the North Atlantic and the Mediterranean until the invasion of Sicily in July 1943. The destroyer sailed with Task Group 80.2 from Algeria to Sicily, fighting off enemy aircraft from July 9-11. She was hit by a bomb on July 11, injuring 18 of her crew members, but causing only minor damage to the ship. The next day, she got underway for another escort mission to Algiers.

The USS Benson escorted more convoys until the end of August, when she joined Task Force 81 for the troop landings at Italy. On September 9, Allied forces landed at Salerno, and the destroyer had to fight off intense enemy aircraft fire. Two days later, the cruiser USS Savannah was damaged by a glide bomb, and the destroyer escorted her to Malta where she could receive temporary repairs for the voyage home. USS Benson then returned to Salerno, shooting down a fighter-bomber on September 19. She remained in the area to participate in shore bombardment and escort Allied convoys. The destroyer rescued downed aviators from a Royal Air Force bomber on October 2.

In January 1944, USS Benson escorted a convoy to New York, giving her the opportunity to put in for overhaul. After her work was completed in April, she sailed back to the war zone with Task Group 27.4.The destroyer resumed her escort duties, and on May 11, she shot down two German bombers and damaged two others, ensuring the safety of her convoy.

Escort duty continued until August, when the USS Benson joined Task Group 80.6 to protect other warships during the invasion of Southern France. Her duties also included traffic control, shore bombardment, and fire support in the following months.

USS Benson was sent back to the United States for repairs and training in late January 1945. She then escorted a convoy to England before being ordered to the Pacific. The destroyer arrived at Pearl Harbor on May 29. On June 14, she set out to escort the carriers USS Lexington, USS Cowpens, and USS Hancock for the strikes against Wake Island.

When the Japanese surrendered on August 15, the USS Benson took up convoy escort and patrol duty between Okinawa and Ulithi. She helped screen the first occupation troops for Yokohama in early September before resuming convoy duty between the Philippines and Tokyo Bay.

Upon her return to the United States, USS Benson was decommissioned on March 18, 1946.She was transferred to the Republic of China Navy on February 26, 1954. The destroyer served the Taiwanese as Lo Yang (DD-14) until she was formally sold to Taiwan and struck from the United States Naval Vessel Register on November 1, 1974. She was then used for scrap. USS Benson received four battle stars for her service in World War II.

Like other ships of her time, the USS Benson was built with asbestos-containing materials. Asbestos was prized for its resistance to heat, water, fire, and corrosion, so it could be found in virtually all areas of the destroyer. Anyone who served onboard the USS Benson or was involved in her repair and overhaul was put at risk of developing serious asbestos-related illnesses like mesothelioma, lung cancer, and asbestosis.

USS Benson 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 Benson, and is diagnosed with mesothelioma, should also consider contacting a lawyer to discuss their legal rights.

Other Benson class destroyers include:

USS Bailey (DD-492)

USS Bancroft (DD-598)

USS Barton (DD-599)

USS Boyle (DD-600)

USS Caldwell (DD-605)

USS Champlin (DD-601)

USS Charles F. Hughes (DD-428)

USS Coghlan (DD-606)

USS Farenholt (DD-491)

USS Frazier (DD-607)

USS Gansevoort (DD-608)

USS Gillespie (DD-609)

USS Hilary P. Jones (DD-427)

USS Hobby (DD-610)

USS Kalk (DD-611)

USS Kendrick (DD-612)

USS Laffey (DD-459)

USS Lansdale (DD-426)

USS Laub (DD-613)

USS MacKenzie (DD-614)

USS Madison (DD-425)

USS Mayo (DD-422)

USS McLanahan (DD-615)

USS Meade (DD-602)

USS Murphy (DD-603)

USS Nields (DD-616)

USS Ordronaux (DD-617)

USS Parker (DD-604)

USS Woodworth (DD-460)

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