USS Benham DD-397 (1939-1942)

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The USS Benham, built in Kearny, New Jersey, was officially commissioned to the United States Navy in February 1939. Named for Rear Admiral Andrew Benham, USN, (1832-1905), the USS Benham was the lead in a class of ten 1,500-ton destroyers.

After its construction and commissioning, the ship was sent to the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico to serve and participate in drills and training until mid-1940. After this time, the ship was deployed to the Pacific Ocean for missions in that area.

Action in World War II

When the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, the USS Benham was with the USS Enterprise, a United States aircraft carrier, at sea in the Pacific. For nine months following the attack on Pearl Harbor, the USS Benham served as carrier escort, generally with the USS Enterprise.

In April 1942, the USS Benham was one of many United States destroyers and cruisers that took part in the raid on Japan known as the Doolittle Raid. Later in June of the same year, the destroyer participated in the Battle of Midway. The Benham again went to battle in August, providing support during the invasion of Guadalcanal-Tulagi and the Eastern Solomons Battle.

The fall of 1942 would see the USS Benham active in duty in the arduous Guadalcanal campaign until mid October of that year. In late October, the ship was sent to participate in the Santa Cruz Islands Battle, providing aid and protection to a battleship cruiser task force lead by Rear Admiral Willis Lee.

In mid November of 1942, the taskforce was on a mission in the Guadalcanal northern waters attempting to stymie an attack by the Japanese on United States airfields. During this mission, the USS Benham was struck by a Japanese torpedo, which seriously damaged the ship’s structure. The following day the USS Benham broke up in the Guadalcanal waters while attempting to travel out of the conflict zone. Before the ship was completely lost, the USS Gwin took the crew off the devastated ship. After the ship’s crew was taken to safety, the remainder of the destroyer was sunk by gunfire.

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.


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