The USS Bennion (DD-662) was commissioned by the U.S. Navy during the Second World War, and remained on the Navy list until 1971. She was named for Captain Mervyn Sharp Bennion who commanded the battleship West Virginia at Pearl Harbor during the Japanese attack. Bennion was built as a Fletcher-class ship.
Bennion was laid down by the Boston Navy Yard in March 1943, launched in July, and commissioned in December with Commander J.W. Cooper in command. Carrying a crew of 273, Bennion was armed with four 20 mm anti-aircraft guns, ten 21-inch torpedo tubes, five 5-inch anti-aircraft guns, and four 1.1 inch anti-aircraft guns. She was 376 feet five inches in length and had a cruising speed of 38 knots.
Bennion arrived in the Pacific as an escort for Bataan, and once berthed at Pearl Harbor in late-March, was assigned to training and patrol duties off Hawaii. During operations at Saipan in June and July, Tinian in July and August, and Palaus in September, Bennion served as the fighter-director ship as well as a radar picket vessel. Bennion conducted these duties during the Leyte invasion in the Philippines, where she was struck by enemy fire from a shore battery. The destroyer also served during the Mindoro landings in December and the troop landings at Lingayen Gulf in January 1945.
Bennion continued her World War II service during the Iwo Jima invasion in February and March, as well as at Okinawa from March through June, where she received minor damage in a kamikaze attack. The Fletcher-class destroyer also participated in raids on Japan in July and, after the war ended, returned to the west coast in October 1945. Bennion was then was placed out of commission in reserve in June 1946, at Long Beach, California.
Bennion was never re-deployed for service, and was struck from the Navy list in April 1971. The destroyer was sold for scrap to the Levin Metals Corporation in May 1973, and broken up at Terminal Island. Bennion received eight battle stars for her service in World War II as well as a Presidential Unit Citation for her actions during the Okinawa assault.
Asbestos Risk on the USS Bennion (DD-662)
Those serving in the United States Navy and on the USS Bennion were at great risk of being exposed to asbestos while “on the job”. Several naval occupations such as engine mechanics, boiler tenders and firemen were responsible for maintaining and operating equipment in the engine rooms and boiler room that became very hot and they were at particularly high risk of being exposed to asbestos. Gunners were at risk as well as they were responsible for operating firearms and ammunition equipment. Areas of the ship or equipment that needed protection from fire and heat often contained asbestos insulation or parts because asbestos was the material of choice to serve that purpose for decades.
The dangers of asbestos, and the fact that it caused a life-threatening cancer known as mesothelioma, were later disclosed to the public when the U.S. government banned the use of it in the late 70’s. Unfortunately, this was after countless thousands of veterans and civilians were already exposed to toxic quantities of the material putting them at risk for developing asbestos cancer.Sources
Haze Gray & Underway. Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships. DD-662. http://www.hazegray.org/danfs/destroy/dd662txt.htm
NavSource Naval History. USS Bennion (DD-662).