Built at Quincy Massachusetts after being commissioned in 1936, the USS Balch was a 1,825-ton Porter class destroyer. The Balch was one of two ships named for Rear Admiral George B. Balch of the United States Navy. Upon commissioning, the ship was operated in the Atlantic, until a year later when it was sent to the Pacific. During these years of peacetime, the USS Balch participated in training off the western coast of the U.S. and in the waters surrounding Hawaii.
Action in World War II
During the December 7, 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor, the USS Balch was at sea. The ship went on to take an important and active role in the Pacific theater war that followed the Pearl Harbor attack.
In February of 1942, the USS Balch joined a task force that was responsible for raids on Wake Island and the Marshall Islands. Later that year, in April of 1942, the ship sailed with the USS Enterprise during the raid on Japan known as the Doolittle Raid. Again that same year, in early June of 1942, the ship was deployed to assist the USS Yorktown in the Battle of Midway. The ship was present when the USS Yorktown suffered damages and sank on June 7, 1942.
After the sinking of the Yorktown, the USS Balch was again deployed to support the USS Enterprise during the August of 1942 raids of Tulagi and Guadalcanal. In the following months, she was charged with also supporting the USS Enterprise during the battles of the Eastern Solomons.
The following year, the USS Balch traveled northbound to aid in the mission to drive the Japanese troops from the Aleutian Islands. In the spring of 1944, the ship returned to the warmer climate to join with the operation that seized New Guinea.
In July of 1944, the USS Balch was sent back to the Atlantic Ocean where the ship’s last duties were to escort military convoys between the Northern Africa and the US. The ship continued to do this work until it was decommissioned in October of 1945. In 1946, the ship was broken and up for scrap.
Asbestos in Navy Ships
Although an essential component of the naval fleet, especially during World War II, naval destroyers also pose a lasting health risk to soldiers serving on them. Unfortunately, products containing asbestos were common, especially on older ships, because of the material’s high resistance to heat and fire. Despite its value as an insulator, asbestos fiber intake can lead to several serious health consequences, including mesothelioma, a devastating cancer without cure. Current and former military personnel who came into contact with these ships should seek immediate medical attention in order to detect possible health consequences associated with asbestos exposure.