The USS Benham (DD-796) remained on the Navy list for over three decades in the mid-20th century. She was named for Rear Admiral Andrew Ellicot Kennedy Benham who served in the Civil War and as commandant of the Mare Island Navy Yard. Benham was built as a Fletcher-class destroyer.
Benham was laid down at Staten Island, New York by the Bethlehem Steel Corporation in April 1943, launched in August, and commissioned in December with Commander E. V. Dennet in command. Supporting a crew complement of 273, Benham was 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.
Benham reported to the Pacific Fleet and began training exercises at Pearl Harbor in March 1944. Operating off the Hawaiian Islands, Benham was then assigned to screening duties during operations at Saipan, Tinian, and Guam from June to August. The destroyer was then deployed during the occupation of the southern Palaus in September and October, the various raids in the Philippines in September, and the assault on Okinawa in October.
Benham followed the Allied forces to participate in raids at Luzon and Formosa in October and November, as well as additional assaults there in January 1945. Raids along the China coast and Nansei Shoto followed, and Benham also participated in the invasion and occupation of Iwo Jima in February and March. Benham served with the 3rd and 5th Fleets during the Okinawa invasion, and then with the 3rd Fleet for raids on Japan in the summer. The destroyer remained on duty for the occupation of Japan, and returned to the United States at the end of October.
Benham was based on the west coast, and was placed out of commission in reserve in October 1946. In March 1951, Benham was re-commissioned and departed San Diego to join the Atlantic Fleet. Routine operations took place along the east coast and in the Caribbean, and Benham also cruised to northern Europe, the Mediterranean, and to the Far East which involved a voyage around the world, which ended in December 1954. Decommissioned in 1960, Benham was struck from the Navy list in January 1974 and transferred to Peru as Villar, where she was used for scrap in 1980.
Asbestos Risk on the USS Benham (DD-397)
Men and women serving in the United States Navy on ships like the USS Benham were at great risk of being exposed to asbestos fibers throughout their term of service. Some, however, were more at risk than others because of the duties that they performed on board the ship.
Boiler tenders, as an example, worked around boiler equipment to keep the fires burning. This equipment needed superior protection from fire and heat and asbestos products provided that protection for many decades. Those responsible for repairing boilers may have had to cut through insulation or gaskets that were made with asbestos and in so doing may have been at risk for breathing in fibers that entered the air as materials were cut. The boiler rooms, like most areas on the ship, were cramped quarters and poorly ventilated. This contributed to asbestos exposure risk as well.
Mesothelioma, a form of asbestos cancer, is caused by asbestos exposure.
Those serving on the USS Benham and diagnosed with mesothelioma are encouraged to fill out the form on this page to request a free informational packet to learn more about the disease, treatment options and legal rights.Sources
Haze Gray & Underway. Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships. DD-796.
NavSource Naval History. Benham (DD-796).