The USS Bearss DD-654 was constructed in Chickasaw, Alabama at the Gulf Shipbuilding Corporation. Put down on the 14th of July, 1942, and named for Brigadier General Hiram I. Bearss, USMC, who was awarded the Medal of Honor for service in the Philippine-American War, this was a Fletcher-class destroyer with a displacement of 2,050 tons. She was also sponsored by the General’s widow, Mrs. Louise Bearss. Her captain was Commander J. A. Webster. She was put into commission on the 12th of April, 1944.
Action in World War II
The USS Bearss was deployed to Hawaii to join the Pacific Fleet in July of 1944. Next, she joined up with Task Force 92 and 94 in Adak, Alaska. These forces were sent to patrol in the Sea of Okhotsk, and also to the Kiril Islands for bombardments and sweeps for anti-shipping. On November 21, March16, 1944 and June 11-12, 1945, she bombarded Matsuwa. On January 5 and May 19, 1945, she bombarded Suribachi Wan. Finally, on February 18, 1945, she bombarded Kurabu Wan.
She also took part in a large number of anti-shipping sweeps in May, June, the July, and August, all of these occurring in 1945. On September 8, 1945, she was sent to Ominato, Honshū. Her task here was to patrol Hokkaidō along the coast to the south. She was sent home after this, to Charleston, S.C. Her date of arrival there was December 22, 1945. She was placed in reserve on 12, 1946.
After the war
The USS Bearss was taken out of reserve and recommissioned on September 7, 1951. She was deployed to the Atlantic Fleet and, once there, joined Destroyer Squadron 32 and Destroyer Division 322. She was deployed with them on normal peacetime operations. These were patrols of the Caribbean waters and the coast of the Atlantic. She sailed all the way around the world from April until October of 1954 while completing a cruise to the Far East and two to the waters of the Mediterranean.
She then helped out with high-atmosphere nuclear testing in August-September with Task Force 88. This was called Operation Argus. After these missions, she was put out-of-commission in 1963. On December 1, 1974, she was stricken from the U.S. Naval Vessel Register. The USS Bearss was finally sold for scrap on April 14, 1976.
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.