The USS Bancroft (DD-598) served in the US Navy during the Second World War and remained on the Navy list until the early 1970s. She was named for George Bancroft, author of History of the United States and founder of the Naval Academy, who also served as Secretary of the Navy under President James K. Polk. Bancroft was a member of the Benson class of naval destroyers.
The third Bancroft was laid down at Quincy, Massachusetts by the Bethlehem Steel Corporation in May 1941, launched in December, and commissioned in April 1942 with Lieutenant Commander J.L. Melgaard in command. Carrying a crew of 208, Bancroft was 348 feet four inches long and armed with four five-inch anti-aircraft guns, six one-half inch machine guns, and ten 21-inch torpedo tubes. Bancroft had a displacement of 2,395 tons and was driven by Bethlehem turbines supporting a cruising speed of 35 knots. She had a range of 6,500 nautical miles at 15 knots.
Bancroft was assigned to the Pacific Fleet upon commissioning and was deployed to Dutch Harbor, Alaska in September 1942. During this deployment, Bancroft supported the occupation of Amchitka in January 1943, Attu in May and June, and Kiska Island in August. Bancroft provided fire support, protective screening, and escort services during the raid on Wake Island in October, as well as during the Gilbert Islands raid and occupation. She also operated to this capacity at Kwajalein and Mille Atoll in the Marshall Islands in early 1944, as well as at Hollandia in April and Saipan in June and July.
Bancroft served during the major Philippine operations in March and April 1945 as well as at Borneo from May to July. She then served as a convoy escort throughout the Philippine Islands, Okinawa, and Japan from September to November 1945. Bancroft returned to the United States and arrived at Norfolk, Virginia in December, and then was placed in reserve at Charleston, South Carolina in February 1946. The destroyer wasn't struck from the Navy list until June 1971, and then was sold for scrap in March 1973. Bancroft was awarded eight battle stars for her service in World War II.
Asbestos Risk on the USS Bancroft (DD-598)
The USS Bancroft used asbestos insulation and fireproofing in many places throughout the ship. Crewmembers stationed in the engine rooms and those that served as firefighters or in damage control parties had the highest risk of exposure to the dangerous mineral. When inhaled or ingested, asbestos fibers can infiltrate the mesothelium, a thin layer of cells that surrounds and protects internal organs, eventually causing a number of serious illnesses, including mesothelioma.
Because the health problems associated with asbestos take many years to manifest, veterans of the Bancroft may have only recently been diagnosed. If you served on or serviced this vessel, make sure your doctor knows about your military service and possible asbestos exposure. That information can help make sure that you receive the best possible treatment.Sources
Haze Gray & Underway. Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships. DD-598.
NavSource Naval History. USS Bancroft (DD-598).