The USS Bennion, launched July 4, 1943 and commissioned December 14, 1943, was manufactured at the Boston Navy Yard. The Bennion was a Fletcher-class destroyer displacing 2,050 tons and boasting a top speed of around 35 knots. The ship was named after Captain Mervyn Bennon, who was killed while commanding the West Virginia during the Pearl Harbor attack, and awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor posthumously.
The USS Bennion’s active combat service consisted of operations in the Pacific Theater of World War II. Initially the ship was used as an escort and patrol vessel, primarily around Hawaii. With this training completed and operations in the pacific intensifying in 1944, the Bennion moved into active combat and served as a fighter director and radar picket for offensive operations.
Action in World War II
The first combat operation for the Bennion took place at the invasion of the Mariana Islands in June of 1944. This was followed by the Tinian operation and the West Caroline Islands operation. In late 1944, the Bennion participated on the Leyte operation, and the Luzon operation at the end of the year. In 1945, the Bennion played a role in the Iwo Jima capture, as well as the Okinawa Gunto operation. Her active combat concluded with the Third Fleet operations against Japan in mid to late 1945.
For her actions during the Okinawa Gunto operation, the USS Bennion received the presidential unit citation. In addition, she received 8 combat stars for heroism in combat operations. During the Leyte Gulf operation, the ship was one of the participants in the sinking of the Japanese battleship, Yamashiro.
After the war
On October 27, 1945, her combat role complete, the Bennion retired to the Puget Sound Naval Yard. Eight months later, on June 20, 1946, the Bennion was removed from the active duty role of the US Navy and went into the fleet reserve in Long Beach California. She was removed from the reserve and stricken from the role of US Navy ship on April 15, 1971, finally being sold for scrap on May 30, 1973.
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.