The USS Benson DD-421, named after Admiral William S. Benson, was a lead ship in a class of destroyers used in World War II. The vessel was laid down on May 16, 1938 in Quincy, Massachusetts by Bethlehem Steel Company. The vessel was launched on November 15, 1939, sponsored by the widow of Admiral Benson, being commissioned on July 25, 1940 with Commander Clifford Fines in command.
After a fitting at the Boston Navy Yard, the Benson made a brief cruise to Portland, MN before being sent to Boston on August 22, 1940 and eventually heading to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba for abbreviated shakedown training. Following visits to Washington DC and Quantico, VA, the vessel made it to Cayenne, French Guiana and served to protect a valuable source of bauxite ore used for Allied war production.
The Benson served as part of neutrality patrols up through early 1941, highlighted when the ship escorted the Potomac, carrying President Franklin D. Roosevelt, to the Bahamas for a fishing vacation. The Benson went on to serve in the Denmark Strait and North Atlantic and took part in the sinking of the German warship, Bismarck. The ship then returned to the Boston Navy Yard in preparation of its new missions.
Action in World War II
Later in 1941, the ship was sent to Casco Bay for exercises near Portland, Maine for seven months. After the December 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor, the Benson’s missions came to overtly support the allied powers. By the end of 1942, the Benson escorted a convoy to Northern Ireland and went on to serve in operations in the British Isles, Panama Canal Zone, Bermuda and the invasion of French North Africa. In 1943, the ship continued to perform escort and rescue duties.
In 1944 and 1945, the Benson served in Morocco, Gibraltar, the Mediterranean and other areas as a part of support and escort operations. The Benson would spend time in Hawaiian and Japanese waters through the end of the war.
After the war
Following the Japanese surrender, the ship escorted convoy groups between Tokyo Bay and the Philippines. The Benson was decommissioned on March 18, 1946 and placed in reserve. In 1954, the Benson was transferred to the Republic of China and renamed Lo Yang DD-14 and served in that role until it 1974, when the ship was struck from the Naval Vessel Register on November 1, 1974 and sold to Taiwan for scrapping.
The USS Benson was awarded four battle stars for service in World War II.
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, includingÂ 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.