The USS Bearss (DD-654) served in the US Navy for nearly two decades in the mid-20th century. She was named for Hiram Iddings Bearss, an officer of the United States Marine Corps who served in the Philippine-American War and World War I. Bearss was a member of the Fletcher-class of naval destroyers.
Bearss was laid down at Chickasaw, Alabama by the Gulf Shipbuilding Corporation in July 1942, launched in July 1943, and commissioned in April 1944 with Commander J.A. Webster in command. Carrying a crew of 273, Bearss was 376 feet five inches long and armed with ten 21-inch torpedo tubes, five 5-inch anti-aircraft guns, four 1.1 inch anti-aircraft guns, and four 20 mm anti-aircraft guns. She was driven by Allis Chalmers turbines supporting a cruising speed of 38 knots and a range of 6,500 nautical miles at 15 knots.
Bearss was assigned to the Pacific Fleet, and served off Hawaiian waters throughout July 1944. The destroyer was deployed to the Aleutian Islands in August and served with Task Forces 92 and 94. During this deployment, Bearss conducted sweeps of enemy shipping as well as bombardments in the Kurile Islands, and also patrolled in the Sea of Okhotsk off Russia. Bearss participated in the bombardments of Matsuwa in November 1944 as well as in March and June 1945, and also served during the strikes on Suribachi Wan in January and May. In September 1945, Bearss arrived at Ominato, Honshu Island and commenced patrol duty off the southern coast of Hokkaido during the occupation of Japan.
Bearss returned to the United States in December, and was put in commission on reserve in July 1946 at Charleston, South Carolina, and then out of commission on reserve in January 1947. Re-activated in September 1951, Bearss was assigned to Destroyer Division 322, Destroyer Squadron 32, Atlantic Fleet and operated off the east coast and in the Caribbean. Bearss also conducted two cruises to the Mediterranean as well as a mission to the Far East that culminated in a trip around the world from April to October 1954. She was decommissioned in December 1953, struck from the Navy list in December 1974, and sold for scrap to Union Minerals & Alloys Corporation in April 1976.
Asbestos Risk on the USS Bearss (DD-654)
Sailors stationed or working on the USS Bearss had the potential of being exposed to asbestos. Those who performed certain duties were more at risk, however, including sailors working in the engineering rooms, handling machinery, working as firefighters, or dealing with battle damage. Dock and yard crew, whether constructing a brand-new ship or refitting or repairing damage to an existing craft, were also at risk of being exposed to dangerous levels of asbestos. In addition, the risks of asbestos exposure extended to the family members of these shipyard personnel as asbestos fibers would cling to the clothing and shoes that workers wore home at the end of the day.
Asbestos exposure is directly linked to the development of mesothelioma. When the fibers are breathed into the lungs they become lodged in the thin lining surrounding the lungs. Over the course of many years, sometimes as many as forty or more, mesothelioma cancer develops. Often the disease has reached the later stages before it is diagnosed. At that point, treatment options become more limited.
If you served on the USS Bearss and have mesothelioma it is important to be as informed as possible about the illness, treatment options and your legal rights. To request more information, please fill in the form on this page and we’ll send you some.Sources
Haze Gray & Underway. Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships. DD-654.
NavSource Naval History. USS Bearss (DD-654).