The USS Balch (DD-363) was the second ship to be named for Rear Admiral George Beall Balch, who served during the Mexican War and the Civil War. He was notable for serving as the executive officer during Commander Perry’s expedition to Japan, and for leading a counterattack against the Imperial Chinese forces harassing American and British commercial interests in Shanghai in 1854.
Balch was the one of the eight Porter-class destroyers commissioned during 1936 and 1937. She was laid down at the Bethlehem Shipbuilding Company in Quincy, Massachusetts on 16 May, 1934. Like the other ships in her class, Balch was built as a response to the larger Japanese destroyers patrolling the Pacific. They were meant to serve as destroyer leaders and flagships.
Balch was commissioned on 20 October, 1936 with Commander T. C. Latimore at the helm. For the next five years, as the flagship of Destroyer Forces 6 and 12, she conducted training exercises and patrols in both the Pacific and Caribbean, particularly around Haiti. Balch departed Pearl Harbor about one week before the Japanese attack while escorting Enterprise on a mission to deliver planes to Wake Island. The flotilla was about 200 miles from Oahu when the battle began and entered the harbor the next day.
Balch took an active role in the Pacific war. She participated in the bombardment of Tarawa and Wake Island, shot up Peale Island (neutralizing five shore batteries, an enemy patrol boat, a crane and a steam shovel), and supported the retaliatory Doolittle Raid on the Japanese home islands. The ship also took part in the landings on Guadalcanal (where her crew claimed two kills out of the ten Japanese bombers shot down during the battle), Attu, Toem-Wakde-Sarmi, Biak Island, New Ireland and Emirau.
Her most notable service during the war was when she rescued 545 sailors from the sinking Yorktown during the Battle of Midway. After transferring the survivors to other ships, she returned the next day to help transfer repair parties to the wounded ship, nearly getting torpedoed by a Japanese submarine in the process.
During the final year of the war, Balch escorted ships across the Atlantic to North African ports. She returned to Philadelphia at the end of the war, and was decommissioned on 2 November 1945. The ship was finally stricken from the Naval List on 28 January 1947. Two months later she was sold for scrap to Boston Metals of Baltimore.
Asbestos Risk on the USS Balch (DD-363)
Sailors aboard Balch were exposed to asbestos as a result of their service, as were dock workers, shipyard personnel, and maintenance crew. Because asbestos exposure is the only known cause of mesothelioma and asbestosis, there are often legal options for patients who have contracted this disease. A lawyer specializing in mesothelioma cases may be able to provide mesothelioma patients with information about their options.
The legal and medical issues surrounding asbestos exposure and mesothelioma can be overwhelming. To help navy veterans who have been diagnosed with asbestos cancer understand their legal and medical options, we have created a comprehensive mesothelioma information kit. Please fill in the form on this page and we will send you the information, free of charge.
USN Ships –USS Balch (DD-361)
Porter-class destroyers in World War II.