The USS Benner was a Gearing-class destroyer commissioned on February 13, 1945 and named after a Marine Corps officer killed at Guadalcanal. She was intended as a “picket ship,” equipped to expand the radar detection range of a moving force at sea. Capable of 35 knots and with a range of 4,500 nmi, Benner was armed with a variety of guns and depth charges.
Action in World War II
Benner escorted and screened aircraft carrier Wasp during air strikes against Wake Island on July 18, 1945. She then joined Task Group 38.3 for attacks on Maizuru and Honshu until the Japanese surrender that August, after which the ship escorted the carrier, Bennington, and remained on occupation duty in Japan for the rest of the year.
After the War
After briefly sailing the western Pacific, Benner received an overhaul on August 29, 1946. Then, she took up station in the East China Sea to support American efforts to end the Chinese civil war. After that she returned to San Diego, where aside from escorting the Pacific Mobile Striking Force to Tsingtao in October of 1948, she conducted routine operations in California waters for three years.
In 1949, Benner was assigned to the Atlantic Fleet, redesignated DDR-807, and sent to her new homeport in Newport, Rhode Island. Throughout the early 1950s, Benner made multiple reserve training cruises and participated in routine exercises. She visited ports in the West Indies, the Mediterranean, and even the Arctic Circle.
Action in the Vietnam War
After reassignment to the Pacific Fleet in 1956, Benner followed a pattern of alternating upkeep periods with escort and screening operations in Asian waters, including action in the Second Taiwan Strait Crisis. In 1965, Benner destroyed an enemy anti-aircraft battery and damaged three smaller crafts as part of Operation Sea Dragon off the coast of North Vietnam. Benner continued with several more missions, including firing on Viet Cong troops in Operation Game Warden, combat at Hon Matt Island, and anti-submarine screening at the Gulf of Tonkin.
Because of defense budget cuts, Benner was decommissioned on November 20, 1970 and sold for scrap five years later. She received one battle star for WWII service and five battle stars for service in the Vietnam War.
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.