USS Balch (DD-363)
The USS Balch was a Porter-class destroyer built by the Bethlehem Shipbuilding Corporation of Quincy, MA. It was commissioned by the U.S. Navy just prior to the outbreak of World War II, in October of 1936, and set sail for the Pacific soon after. It participated in several years of fleet exercises and training until the United States was drawn in the war after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. The Balch then became an active fighting ship in the Pacific Theater, participating in such battles as the Doolittle Raid and the Battle of Midway. It earned six battle stars for its service in this war, and was decommissioned shortly after the Allied victory, in October 1945.
Ships built between the 1930’s and 1970’s commonly used asbestos in their construction, placing those who served aboard the USS Balch at a high risk of asbestos exposure. Asbestos could be found in equipment such as boilers, turbines, valves, pumps, and electrical components. Materials such as gaskets and packing were also often made entirely from asbestos. A high concentration of these items were located in the engine and boiler spaces of ships, putting Machinist’s Mates, Boiler Tenders, Firemen, and others who worked in these areas in constant contact with friable and airborne asbestos. The companies who sold this asbestos to the U.S. Navy were typically aware of the threat it posed, but did nothing to warn the veterans who would be working with it. This led to many veterans developing mesothelioma later in life; a disease only known to be caused by asbestos.
Victims of asbestos exposure have a right to seek compensation. Navy veterans diagnosed with mesothelioma or other asbestos-related diseases can have the often overwhelming costs of medical care covered by settlements, and may be entitled to additional sums for pain and suffering. The law limits the amount of time a lawsuit can be filed, so it is important that victims contact legal representation as soon as possible following a mesothelioma diagnosis.