The USS Monssen (DD-436) served in the U.S. Navy at the beginning of World War II, and was awarded four battle stars for her service. She was named for Lieutenant Mons Monssen, who was honored with the Medal of Honor for his heroism aboard Missouri. Monssen was a member of the Gleaves class of destroyers.
Monssen was laid down by the Puget Sound Navy Yard in July 1939, launched in May 1940, and commissioned in March 1941 with Lieutenant Commander R.N. Smoot in command. Carrying a crew of 208, Monssen was 348 feet, four inches long, had a displacement of 2,395 tons, and was armed with four five-inch anti-aircraft guns, six one-half inch machine guns, and ten 21-inch torpedo tubes.
Monssen began her naval service with Atlantic Fleet 27, as part of Destroyer Division 22, in June 1941, and conducted neutrality patrol in the northwestern Atlantic from New England out to Iceland. Following overhaul at the Boston Navy Yard in February 1942, Monssen was transferred to the Pacific Fleet as part of TF 16. Monssen served as an anti-submarine screen for Hornet on the Shangri-La mission in Japan. In April, the fleet launched planes after being sighted by the enemy, and then Monssen returned to Pearl Harbor.
Monssen was deployed to the Battle of the Coral Sea later in the month, but arrived after the battle ended. Following another stay at Pearl Harbor, Monssen sailed for the Solomon Islands and provided fire support to 2nd Marine Regiment units while encircling Gavutu and Tanambago islands. Monssen then served as a screen to forces guarding the approaches to Sealark, Lengo, and Nggela Channels.
Monssen patrolled sea routes to Guadalcanal following the Battle of the Eastern Solomons, and then escorted damaged Saratoga to the Tonga Islands. In September, Monssen returned to Guadalcanal to guard an Allied supply line and escort transports with Marines. Monssen then participated in the Naval Battle of Guadalcanal in November, where she was bombarded by Japanese warships and destroyed, with the loss of 130 crew members.
Asbestos Risk on the USS Monssen (DD-436)
Almost every crewman aboard Monssen suffered exposure to asbestos during his service. The mineral was very versatile and was used any and everywhere that called for heat or fire resistant materials. There was a particularly high concentration of asbestos products in engineering spaces, but no area on board was completely free of asbestos contamination.
The battle history of Monssen suggests that her crew may have faced additional risks. When asbestos products were damaged, they sent clouds of tiny asbestos fibers into the air. Sailors performing damage control duties easily inhaled these airborne fibers. Once asbestos enters the lungs, it can cause scarring and mesothelioma cancer.
While many of her crew were lost at Guadalcanal, survivors of the ship and those that served a tour on her before she sank were likely exposed to asbestos during their service. Veterans of the Monnssen that later became ill with mesothelioma may be entitled to compensation for their asbestos-related injury.Sources
Haze Gray & Underway. Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships. DD-436.
NavSource Naval History, USS Monssen (DD-436).