Asbestos in the military

USS Cowpens (CVL-25)

Description:  History of the U.S. Navy aircraft carrier USS Cowpens (CVL-25) including information about asbestos exposure for workers.

The USS Cowpens (CVL-25), nicknamed “The Mighty Moo,” was originally planned as USS Huntington (CL-77). She was ordered for the U.S. Navy during World War II. Her keel was laid down at New York Shipbuilding Corporation on November 17, 1941. She was launched on January 17, 1943 and commissioned on May 28, 1943 under the command of Captain R. P. McConnell.

USS Cowpens joined the war in the Pacific as a member of Task Force 14 for the strike on Wake Island on October 5-6.  The following month, she launched air strikes against Mille and Makin before moving on to Kwajalein and Wotje in December.

The USS Cowpens joined Task Force 58 in January 1944 for the invasion of the Marshall Islands. Her planes conducted pre-invasion air strikes on Kwajalein and Eniwetok for the landing on January 31. She then took part in the February assaults on Truk and the Mariana Islands.

After a brief trip to Pearl Harbor, USS Cowpens rejoined Task Force 58 for operations in the western Caroline Islands. She provided air and antisubmarine patrols for the attacks on Palau, Yap, Ulithi, and Woleai. Later in the spring, she participated in the invasion of Hollandia and the air strikes on Truk, Satawan, and Ponape. The aircraft carrier spent the latter part of May at Majuro for training.

USS Cowpens was involved with the Marianas operation from June 6 to July 10, 1944. She supported the attacks on Saipan, Iwo Jima, Pagan Island, Rota, and Guam. The carrier was involved in the Battle of the Philippine Sea, in which her planes took down a number of Japanese aircraft in what came to be known as the “Marianas Turkey Shoot.”

The USS Cowpens headed to Pearl Harbor for a brief overhaul before returning to Eniwetok on August 17. She took part in the pre-invasion air strikes on the Palau Islands at the end of August. The aircraft carrier covered the troop landings on Morotai from September 13 to September 17 before returning to support operations at Luzon the following week.

In October, the USS Cowpens conducted air strikes against Okinawa and Formosa. She provided air cover when the USS Canberra and USS Houston were hit by torpedoes, allowing them to withdraw safely for repairs. The carrier provided combat air support during the Battle of Surigao Strait on October 25-26.

USS Cowpens got caught in Typhoon Cobra on December 18, 1944. The ship lost her air officer, Lieutenant Commander Robert Price, as well as several of her planes and some equipment. She headed to Ulithi for repairs on December 21.

After her repairs were complete, the USS Cowpens returned to battle to support the Lingayen Gulf landings. Throughout January 1945, her plans conducted air strikes against Formosa, Luzon, the Indochinese coast, Hong Kong, and Okinawa. She supported operations at Iwo Jima and Tokyo before heading to Okinawa on March 1.

The USS Cowpens sailed to San Francisco for overhaul, then spent time training at Pearl Harbor. She returned to the war in the Pacific in June, striking Wake Island on June 20. The aircraft carrier rejoined Task Force 58 to support attacks on the Japanese home islands. Her planes conducted air strikes on Tokyo, Kure, Hokkaido, and Honshu until August 15. She was the first American carrier to enter Tokyo Harbor, where she remained to support occupation forces. She conducted photographic reconnaissance missions to patrol Japanese transportation movements and to locate POW camps. Her men were the first Americans to set foot on the Japanese home islands.

Personnel from USS Cowpens were responsible for the liberation of a POW camp at Niiagata and the emergency activation of the Yokosuka airfield for use by Allied forces. The aircraft carrier participated in Operation Magic Carpet, conducting two voyages to bring U.S. servicemen home from war.

USS Cowpens was decommissioned on December 3, 1946.  She was reclassified as an aircraft transport, AVT-1, on May 15, 1959, but she was removed from the Naval Vessel Register on November 1, 1959 and sold for scrap. The aircraft carrier earned 12 battle stars and a Navy Unit Commendation for her service in World War II.

Like all other ships built during World War II, the USS Cowpens was constructed using many asbestos-containing components. The toxic substance asbestos was prized for its resistance to heat, water, fire, and corrosion, so it was used in virtually every part of the ship and in the aircraft she carried. Anyone who served on or around the USS Cowpens was put at risk of developing deadly asbestos-related illnesses like mesothelioma.

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

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