The USS Bancroft, a Benson-class destroyer, was built by Bethlehem Steel Company, in Quincy, Massachusetts. Its launch date was December 31, 1941 and it was commissioned on April 30, 1942. Its commander was Lieutenant Commander J. L. Melgaard.
Named for historian George Bancroft, the Bancroft was the third ship to wear the name. George Bancroft was a statesman born in 1800 and was an advocate for promoting secondary education in the United States. He served as the U.S. Secretary of the Navy, and established the United States Naval Academy at Annapolis in 1845.
Action in World War II
The Bancroft, assigned to the Pacific Fleet, reported to Dutch Harbor, Alaska, on September 17, 1942. It served in the area until late August 1943. Its function was to offer support in the occupation of islands Amchitka, Attu and Kiska, in January, May and August, respectively.
The Bancroft then took on the role of wheelhorse in screening and fire support, also performing escort duties during the Wake Island raid on October 5th and 6th, 1943. It then participated in raids on September 18 on Tarawa and Gilbert Islands, occupation following from November 20 through December 6. Kwajalein and Marshall Islands were seized from the Japanese between January 31 and February 16, 1944 when U.S. forces invaded, destroying the Japanese garrisons, claiming the islands as a U.S. Trust Territory.
In the same campaign, other landings that the Bancroft offered support for included the seizure of Mille Atoll and the Marshall Islands from March 17 to 18, the Woleai and Palau raids from March 29 to April 2, the Hollandia operation, West New Guinea from April 21 to 24. Truk, Japan’s main base of operations against Allied forces, was raided along with Satawan and Ponape on April 28 to 30.
The Bancroft continued on through the south Pacific islands in its role as escort while the Allies occupied Saipan in June and liberated the Philippine Islands in March. During the fall of 1945, the Bancroft served as escort between Japan, the Philippine Islands, and Okinawa.
After the War
Heading back to the United States, the Bancroft arrived at Norfolk, Virginia on December 9, 1945 and was decommissioned at Charleston, South Carolina on February 1, 1946. It was scrapped in 1973. For its service in World War II, the USS Bancroft was awarded eight battle stars.
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.