Those who worked or served on U.S. Navy ships in the 20th century were likely exposed to asbestos, and USS Benham servicemen are no different. The USS Benham (DD-397) served the U.S. Navy honorably during World War II. The ship earned five battle stars before meeting a tragic, though heroic end at the Battle of Guadalcanal. Survivors were rescued before the destroyer was sunk; unfortunately, those crew members, as well as any workers who participated in the construction and maintenance of the ship, were exposed to asbestos.
What You Need to Know About Asbestos and USS Benham
Asbestos is a naturally-occurring mineral that was used widely in construction throughout the twentieth century. Prized for its heat-resistance and affordability, the mineral was included in many forms of insulation and other materials used in shipbuilding.
The First of Its Class
The USS Benham (DD-397) was the first of the Benham-class of destroyers ordered for the U.S. Navy between World War I and World War II. Construction began at the Federal Shipbuilding and Dry Dock Company on September 1, 1936. The ship 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 was assigned to the Atlantic. 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 (CV-6) in the transport of Marine planes to the Naval Air Station at Midway Atoll. The Benham did not return from this task until the day after the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor.
World War II Aboard the USS Benham (DD-397)
With the United States thrown into World War II, the USS Benham operated with the USS Enterprise and the USS Saratoga (CV-3) in Hawaiian waters. The destroyer then served with Task Force 16 in the first air strikes on the Japanese Home Islands, known as the Doolittle (or Tokyo) Raid, in April 1942.
During the Battle of Midway, a critical point in the campaign in the Pacific, the USS Benham rescued 908 survivors of attacks on other U.S. vessels. From August 7 to 9, 1942, Benham assisted operations to seize control of a Japanese airfield at Guadalcanal and capture the island of Tulagi.
On October 15, the USS Benham joined Task Force 64 to provide cover off Guadalcanal. One month later, the destroyer became involved in the Naval Battle of Guadalcanal. Shortly after midnight on November 15, a torpedo burst through the ship’s bow. It was a blow that would end the USS Benham’s service. While attempting to make way toward Guadalcanal, it became apparent that she could go no further. The order came down to abandon ship. The destroyer USS Gwin (DD-433) rescued the surviving crew members and put the Benham to rest at sea.
A Shared History: Asbestos and USS Benham (DD-397)
The histories of the USS Benham and asbestos exposure are sadly connected. Like other ships of the time, the craft was built using a number of asbestos-containing materials. The toxic substance 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 construction, repair, or overhaul of the ship was put at risk of developing serious asbestos-related illnesses like mesothelioma, asbestosis, and lung cancer.
Asbestos and USS Benham: What Happens Next?
USS Benham crew and workers, as well as their families, should monitor their health carefully and consult a doctor if they experience any symptoms associated with mesothelioma. Anyone who worked in or around the ship and is diagnosed with mesothelioma should also consider contacting a lawyer to discuss his or her legal rights.
The Nemeroff Law Firm is a nationwide practice with more than 150 years of combined experience in mesothelioma cases. Our compassionate attorneys fight hard to get the victims of asbestos exposure the benefits they deserve. To learn more about how the Nemeroff Law Firm can help, complete our free case evaluation form today or call us at 866-342-1929 for a free and confidential consultation.
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)