The USS Bairoko and asbestos exposure—not things you would normally put together, but unfortunately they go hand in hand. The United States has always had a respected naval fleet, but, sadly, our brave service men and women were placed in danger beyond the dangers of battle and war. Little did the sailors serving before the 1970s know that the ships themselves were dangerous, constructed with asbestos components, a cancer-causing material.
The History of the USS Bairoko and Asbestos Exposure
In the early 20th century, shipbuilders regularly constructed Navy ships with asbestos parts. Those who built, served on, or repaired ships could have been exposed to asbestos particles that we now know can cause deadly forms of cancer. The Navy ordered many ships through the years, including the USS Bairoko, and asbestos was part of her construction.
The USS Bairoko’s Early History and Korean War Contributions
The USS Bairoko (CVE-115) was ordered for the U.S. Navy during World War II, although she was originally meant to be named the USS Portage Bay. Construction began at Todd-Pacific Shipyards in Tacoma, Washington. She was launched on January 25, 1945, and commissioned on July 16, 1945, under the command of Captain H.B. Temple.
Too late to join the fighting in World War II, the USS Bairoko was involved in a variety of peacetime activities. She cruised to the Far East from October 18, 1946, to January 25, 1947, and again from February 18 to May 30, 1947. The ship was decommissioned on April 14, 1950.
The USS Bairoko was recommissioned shortly after on September 12, 1950 when the Korean War began. The aircraft carrier made three cruises to support United Nations forces in Korea: November 14, 1950, to August 15, 1951; December 1, 1951, to June 9, 1952; and February to August 1953.
The Bairoko engaged in a number of air strikes against the North Korean and Chinese Volunteer armies. Her antisubmarine planes patrolled the Korean waters and looked for signs that the Soviet Union was going to join forces with the North Koreans.
On May 9, 1951, there was an explosion on board the USS Bairoko. Five men were killed and 13 others were injured by the explosion and flash fire. The ship itself did not sustain much damage, and she was able to remain in position.
The USS Bairoko and Bomb Testing
The USS Bairoko sailed back to the West Coast in August 1953. She headed to the Bikini Atoll for hydrogen bomb testing in January 1954. On March 1, 1954, during the Castle Bravo atomic test, the bomb tested was more powerful than any other nuclear device detonated by the United States. Unfortunately, the detonation also resulted in accidental radiological contamination as well. Fallout from the Castle Bravo test resulted in 16 Bairoko crew members receiving beta radiation burns.
The USS Bairoko’s Final Decommissioning
The USS Bairoko returned to San Diego for training exercises from May to June 1954. She was decommissioned on February 18, 1955. The ship was reclassified as an aircraft transport, AKV-15, in May 1959, but she did not perform any service in that role. She was struck from the Naval Vessel Register on April 1, 1960, and sold for scrap in August 1960. The aircraft carrier (CVE-115) received three battle stars for her service in the Korean War.
The USS Bairoko and Asbestos Exposure: A Sad Legacy
Like other ships built around World War II, the USS Bairoko (CVE-115) was built using materials containing asbestos. Not known to be hazardous at the time of the ship’s construction, asbestos was known for its resistance to fire, heat, water, and corrosion. It was used throughout the ship, from turbines and boilers to caulk and gaskets. Asbestos was also used in the aircrafts that she carried.
Many worked on or around the USS Bairoko, and cancer today may be the result of asbestos exposure on the ship. This is especially true for people who worked without the benefit of protective clothing and respiratory gear. People exposed to asbestos are at risk of developing any number of asbestos-related illnesses, including mesothelioma, asbestosis, lung cancer, throat cancer, stomach cancer, colon cancer, and rectal cancer. These illnesses caused by asbestos exposure may appear decades later.
What to do if You’re Concerned About Service on the USS Bairoko and Asbestos Exposure
USS Bairoko workers should monitor their health carefully and consult a doctor if they experience any symptoms associated with asbestos-related illnesses. Anyone on the ship during construction, damage, or repair may have been exposed to asbestos, which can result in mesothelioma or other types of cancer. Even family members of those who served or worked on the Bairoko are at risk due to secondhand exposure.
Those who were exposed to asbestos on the USS Bairoko who later developed mesothelioma or another asbestos-related illness should take steps to protect their legal rights. If you or a loved one served or worked on the USS Bairoko and asbestos exposure is a concern, contact an asbestos attorney to learn about your legal rights. The asbestos attorneys at the Nemeroff Law Firm have decades of collective experience getting compensation for asbestos exposure victims. Contact them today by calling 866-342-1929 or fill out an online form for a free consultation.