Asbestos in the military

USS Antietam (CV-36)

Description:  History of the U.S. Navy aircraft carrier USS Antietam (CV-36) including information about asbestos exposure for workers.

The USS Antietam (CV-36) was ordered for the U.S. Navy during World War II.  Her keel was laid down at Philadelphia Naval Shipyard on March 15, 1943.  She was launched on August 20, 1944 and commissioned on January 28, 1945 under the command of Captain James R. Tague.

By the time the USS Antietam’s shakedown and training were through, the aircraft carrier arrived at Eniwetok just in time to support the occupation of Japan, having been too late to take part in the fighting.  After a brief stop in Okinawa, her orders had changed and sent her to Shanghai.  She remained in the Far East for over three years to support the Allied occupation of Manchuria, North China, and Korea, with occasional visits to Japan, Okinawa, the Philippines, and the Marianas.   When she returned to the United States in 1949, she was deactivated for a short time.

USS Antietam was recommissioned on January 17, 1951 at the outbreak of the Korean War.  As a member of Task Force 77, the carrier made four cruises in the combat zone in Korean waters.  When she wasn’t fighting, she headed to Yokosuka, Japan to aid the United Nations forces in combating North Korean aggression. Her aircraft performed reconnaissance antisubmarine patrols, combat air patrol logistics interdiction, and night heckler missions – nearly 6,000 sorties in all.

The USS Antietam headed back to the United States in the spring of 1952. She was deactivated for a few months before joining the Atlantic Fleet. She headed to the New York Naval Shipyard in September to undergo major alterations, and she emerged as an attack aircraft carrier, redesignated CVA-36.

Now the world’s first angled deck aircraft carrier, the USS Antietam participated in training and fleet exercises until 1955.  During that time, she was again redesignated, this time as an antisubmarine warfare (ASW) carrier, CVS-36.

In 1955, USS Antietam took a brief voyage to the Mediterranean as part of the 6th Fleet before returning to the East Coast of the United States. She sailed to the eastern Atlantic in October 1956 to participate in NATO ASW exercises and to conduct goodwill visits to Allied countries.  The carrier was in Rotterdam when the Suez crisis began, and she headed south to join the 6th Fleet for the evacuation of Americans from Alexandria, Egypt.

During the spring of 1957, the USS Antietam was assigned to training duty with the Naval Air Training Station in Pensacola, though her homeport was Naval Station Mayport. She continued training and equipment testing out of Mayport until January 1959, when the channel into Pensacola was deepened enough to make Pensacola her new homeport.

USS Antietam did more than just training exercises after the Korean War.  Her deck served as the launching pad for the stratospheric balloon fight that set the unbroken official altitude record for manned balloon flights on May 4, 1961.  She later provided humanitarian aid to the victims of Hurricane Carla in Texas and Hurricane Hattie in British Honduras.

The USS Antietam was decommissioned on May 8, 1963.  She was removed from the Naval Vessel register in May 1973 and sold for scrap on February 28, 1974.  The USS Antietam (CV-36) received two battle stars for her service in the Korean War.

Like other aircraft carriers from the World War II era, the USS Antietam was built using asbestos-containing materials.  Asbestos was known for its resistance to fire, heat, water, and corrosion.  Because of this, it could be found in virtually all areas of the ship, as well as in the aircraft it carried.  Anyone who served aboard the USS Antietam or was involved in her repair and overhaul was put at risk of developing serious asbestos-related illnesses like lung cancer, asbestosis, and mesothelioma, a deadly form of cancer that attacks the protective lining surrounding the lungs.

USS Antietam workers should monitor their health carefully, and consult a doctor if they experience any symptoms associated with mesothelioma.  Anyone who worked on or around the USS Antietam, and is diagnosed with mesothelioma, should also consider contacting a lawyer to discuss their legal rights.

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