Asbestos in the military

USS Bataan (CVL-29)

Description:  History of the U.S. Navy aircraft carrier USS Bataan (CVL-29) including information about asbestos exposure for workers.

The USS Bataan (CVL-29) was originally planned to be the USS Buffalo (CL-99).  She was ordered for the U.S. Navy during World War II.  Her keel was laid down at New York Shipbuilding Corporation on August 31, 1942.  She was launched a year later on August 1, 1943 and commissioned on November 17, 1943 under the command of Captain V.H. Schaeffer.

USS Bataan joined the Navy’s Pacific Fleet after shakedown.  She supported the attack on Hollandia from April 21 to April 24, 1944.  The aircraft carrier moved on to support the strikes at Truk, Satawan, Ponape, Saipan, and the Bonin Islands.

The USS Bataan was present for the Battle of the Philippine Sea on June 19-20, 1944.  She was serving as part of Rear Admiral Joseph Clark’s Task Group 58.1, which also included USS Hornet, USS Yorktown, and USS Belleau Wood.  It was a decisive victory for the United States.

After a second attack on the Bonin Islands, the USS Bataan returned to the United States for repair work.  Once the work was completed, she rejoined Task Force 58 to support the assault on Okinawa.  Her aircraft helped to sink the Japanese battleship Yamato on April 7, 1945 and the Japanese submarine I-56 on April 18, 1945.

USS Bataan joined the 3th Fleet to support operations against the Japanese home islands from July 10 to August 15.  Admiral Gerald F. Bogan built Task Group 38.3 around her; the group also included USS Essex, USS Ticonderoga, USS Randolph, and USS Monterey.  At the end of the war, she participated in Operation Magic Carpet, helping to repatriate American troops.

The USS Bataan was decommissioned on February 11, 1947.  The Korean War saw her recommissioned on May 13, 1950.  She arrived off the coast of Korea on December 15, participating in air strikes against North Korean targets until June 1951. The carrier returned to Bremerton for overhaul in July, then headed to Japan and Okinawa for training maneuvers and air exercises in early 1952.

Throughout the spring and summer of 1952, the USS Bataan carried supplies and personnel between Japan and Korea while launching air strikes at enemy forces.  She headed back to San Diego from August until October, but returned to Korean waters until May 1953.

When USS Bataan returned to San Diego, she underwent overhaul and participated in training exercises.  She then sailed to Kobe and Yokosuka via Pearl Harbor before returning to San Francisco for deactivation.  She was decommissioned on April 9, 1954.  The ship was reclassified as an aircraft transport, AVT-4, in May 1959, but struck from the Naval Vessel Register in September 1959, and sold for scrap in May 1961.  The air craft carrier earned six battle stars for her service in World War II and seven battle stars in the Korean War.

Like other ships built during World War II, the USS Bataan was constructed with asbestos-containing components.  The toxic substance asbestos was known for its resistance to heat, water, fire, and corrosion. Asbestos was cheap, so it was used in nearly every part of the ship, including steam pipes, hot water pipes, boilers, valves, caulking, pumps, turbines, gaskets, incinerators, engine rooms, floor tiles, wall insulation, ceiling tiles, electrical wiring, and rope.  The hazardous material was also used in the aircraft she carried. Men who served on the USS Bataan or participated in her repair and overhaul were exposed to dangerous levels of asbestos, putting them at risk of developing life-threatening illnesses like asbestosis, mesothelioma, lung cancer, throat cancer, stomach cancer, colon cancer, or rectal cancer.

USS Bataan 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 Bataan, and is diagnosed with mesothelioma, should also consider contacting a lawyer to discuss their legal rights.

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