USS Beale DD-471 (1942-1968)

The USS Beale, a Fletcher-class destroyer built by the Bethlehem Steel Co. in Staten Island, was commissioned in December of 1942. She was commanded by Commander Joe B. Cochran, beginning her shakedown and early operations in the coastal waters of the Eastern seaboard and the Caribbean.

Action in World War II

After her shakedown, the Beale transited the Panama Canal in April 1943, entering Pearl Harbor the next month to conduct six weeks of anti-submarine warfare and gunnery training. She started her service in World War II in the northern war zone and began combat quickly, facing Japanese forces in the Kiska islands. She continued to serve in the Aleutians until November of 1943, sailing to support General Douglas MacArthur's conquest of the northern coast of New Guinea. She then aided in the Cape Gloucester invasion in late December and engaging Japanese planes. During the final days of 1943 and early 1944, she assisted on the Western shore of New Guinea and the Admiralty Islands, assisting in landing operations in this region. The Beale stayed busy throughout 1944 as well, aiding in many battles throughout the Pacific, helping seize several islands making up the New Guinea Peninsula. In August, the Beale departed to Sydney, Australia to receive maintenance. Returning to New Guinea at the end of the month, the Beale spend time patrolling the region and aiding in several forces, including the invasion of the Philippines at Leyte. IN the end of 1944, the destroyer headed back to U.S. shores to begin preparations for the final assault against Japan. The Beale joined a fleet for the battle of Okinawa in February and March of 1945, eventually meeting a lengthy struggle with suicide planes. She would not have any damage from these attacks, but would be sent on anti-shipping duties off the coast of China after minor repairs at Leyte beginning in June. When the war ended, the Beale would help with the occupation of Japan before steaming back to the U.S. where she would be decommissioned and placed into the Reserve Fleet in 1946.

After the war

In 1951, she was turned into an anti-submarine destroyer, being renamed the DDE-471, having many of her guns turned into anti-submarine warfare weapons. She would be sent back out as part of the Atlantic Fleet in 1951 and would remain in service for the next 17 years, conducting many missions. She mainly sailed in the Western and North Atlantic Ocean, although she was occasionally sent into the Mediterranean Sea and Northern Europe.

Action in the Cold War

She would be part of a special antisubmarine task force, eventually aiding in the blockade of Cuba in 1962. She then aided in operations off Cyprus, NATO exercises and gun support off the Vietnamese coast. After several more missions, including a circumnavigation of the globe, the Beale retired to Newport, Rhode Island to act as a training platform. However, after a 1968 inspection recommended the Beale for retirement, the ship was decommissioned on September 30, 1968, being sunk as a target east of the Chesapeake Bay in June 1969. The Beale received six battle stars for her service in World War II and one additional star for her valor in Vietnam.

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.