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USS Bache (DD-470)

The USS Bache (DD-470) was the second ship named for a Civil War Naval officer, Commander George M. Bache. Bache was one of the 175 Fletcher-class destroyers built during World War II specifically to confront the more modern Japanese destroyers challenging American naval supremacy in the Pacific.

Construction

Bache was launched July 7, 1942 by the Bethlehem Steel Company at Staten Island, New York, with Commander J.N. Opie III at her helm. Like her sister ships, she displaced almost 2100 long tons, could cruise at 36 knots and had two stacks.

Naval History

Bache escorted a westbound convoy to Nova Scotia on her maiden voyage, bombarded Kiska and patrolled the Aleutians from May to December 1943, and then escorted the HMS Victorious to Pearl Harbor before joining up with the 7th Fleet.

Bache participated in several bombardments, including New Britain Islands, Los Negros, various islands in the Admiralty archipelago, some beaches on New Guinea and its surrounding islands, Leyte in the Philippines, before participating in the overwhelming defeat of the Japanese in the Battle of Surigao Strait on 25 October, 1944. This was the final battleship-on-battleship engagement of the war. Bache then sailed for overhaul in the United States.

Returning as part of the 5th Fleet at Eniwetok in late February, Bache provided air support for the invasion of Iwo Jima. She then steamed off to Okinawa for picket duty and screening in April. Even though she suffered minor damage due to a kamikaze on May 3, 1945, Bache was still able to come to the rescue of LSM(R)-195 and rescue her crew of 74. Ten days later she came under another kamikaze attack. This time, one plane’s wing struck her number two stack, causing the plane to catapult down the main deck. The plane’s bomb then exploded seven feet above the main deck, killing 41 and injuring 32 more. Fires were under control in 20 minutes but electrical and steam power were lost. The ship underwent temporary repair in Kerama Retto, Okinawa before returning to the States for full repair.

Bache was inactivated and decommissioned February 4, 1946 in Charleston, South Carolina.

Four years later, Bache was converted to an escort destroyer, reclassified as DDE-470, and recommissioned on October 1, 1951. Assigned to the 6th Fleet, and later returning to her original classification of DD-470 in 1961, she proceeded to patrol the Caribbean and Mediterranean until she was beached in Rhodes on February 6, 1968. She was decommissioned for the final time on March 1, 1968, stricken from the Naval Register and scrapped.

Asbestos Risk on the USS Bache (DD-470)

Because of their extraordinary versatility, asbestos-containing materials were used in almost every compartment and corridor aboard Bache. The mineral was an excellent insulator, and was wrapped around steam pipes and boilers. It was also used to fireproof vital systems like turbines and engines.

The wear and tear of long stints at sea and damage from enemy fire could cause asbestos products to shed individual mineral fibers. It was this asbestos dust that posed the greatest risk to sailors on Bache. The more frequently a crewman encountered asbestos dust, the greater his odds of developing mesothelioma cancer. Many Navy veterans have been diagnosed with diseases caused at least in part by their maritime asbestos exposure.

Sources
Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance Blog

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