USS Benham DD-796 (1943-1960)
The 2,050-ton modified Fletcher-class destroyer, USS Benham, was built in Staten Island, NY and commissioned in December of 1943. The destroyer was named for Rear Admiral Andrew E.K. Benham, who served in the Navy from 1832 to 1905. After shakedown in the Atlantic, the Benham passed through the Panama Canal in March of 1944.
Action in World War II
Benham’s first action after entering the Pacific was to join the battles with Japan. Her first taste of combat occurred in June when she took part in the Saipan invasion, helping take down attacking Japanese aircrafts. She also participated in the invasion of Tinian in July of 1944. Shortly after, she acted as an escort to some of the aircraft carriers of Task Force 38 to help the Navy prepare for the invasion of Leyte.
Benham took part in the Leyte invasion, as well as the Mindanao landings in late 1944, although she was out of commission for a month after damaged by a typhoon. Later that month she was again ready for action in the Pacific. In January of 1945, she took part as an offensive player in carrier strikes on Formosa and in the waters of South China. She spent the next several months working with her task force to target areas in southern Japan, including Iwo Jima.
That March, she took a voyage to Okinawa, where kamikaze bombings were taking place. One of those enemy planes damaged her during a particularly intense bombing in April, although not substantially. Benham took part in several more raids and was an active participant in Tokyo Bay when Japan surrendered in September. In October of 1946, she was decommissioned in San Diego.
Action in the Korean War
At the onset of the Korean War the U.S. took strides to expand its naval fleets, leading to Benham’s recommissioning in 1951 to act defensively in the war efforts. After some modernized upgrades, she became part of the Atlantic Fleet. She spent time in European and Mediterranean waters until 1953, later making a journey around the world in 1954. During her world voyage, she temporarily joined forces with the Seventh Fleet in the Far East to further war efforts.
She returned to the Mediterranean briefly from 1956 into 1957, following up on the Suez crisis. Benham subsequently visited the shores of South America, returned to northern Europe, and took a final journey back to the Mediterranean. She was decommissioned for a second time in 1960. The Benham was then sold to Peru, renamed Villar, and served the Peruvian Navy until her scrapping in 1980.
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.