The USS Astoria (CL-90), a light cruiser, served during World War II. Many components on the ship included asbestos, which caused harmful exposure in service members. As a result, U.S. Navy veterans have some of the highest rates of mesothelioma in the country.
About the USS Astoria (CL-90) and Asbestos
The USS Astoria CL-90 was built at a time when the Navy used asbestos in hundreds of components that went into ships. Veterans who served on the Astoria were at risk of asbestos exposure and later illnesses, like mesothelioma.
The light cruiser USS Astoria was named after the previous USS Astoria, CA-34, a heavy cruiser lost in 1942 during the Battle of Savo Island. The CA-34 belonged to the New Orleans class of cruisers and launched in 1930. It was named for the city of Astoria, Oregon.
The next Astoria belonged to the Cleveland class of Navy cruisers. The Cleveland class included twenty-seven completed light cruisers — the largest class of light cruisers — that were designed to be faster, go farther, and have better anti-aircraft weapons than previous classes.
The Astoria was laid down September 6, 1941, at the William Cramp & Sons Shipbuilding Company in Philadelphia and launched in 1943. She was commissioned on May 17, 1944, under Captain George Carroll Dyer at the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard.
The cruiser was 610 feet long, displaced 14,358 tons at capacity, and could travel 11,000 nautical miles with a complement of 1,255 officers and enlisted men. She was powered by steam boilers and propelled by geared turbines, some of the onboard equipment that saw the heaviest use of asbestos.
The USS Astoria in World War II
The USS Astoria was built for World War II, and it was in this war, she earned her battle stars. After shakedown training in Bermuda and subsequent upgrades, the Astoria traveled through the Panama Canal, San Diego, and Pearl Harbor in Hawaii before deploying to the Pacific Theater of the war, joining the Fast Carrier Task Force.
- Her first action began as she cruised out on December 11, 1944, to serve as part of an anti-aircraft screen for the fleet’s aircraft carriers.
- Following this action, the Astoria weathered a typhoon that sank other ships. She survived undamaged and helped with search and rescue for several days after the storm.
- Early in 1945, the Astoria participated in offensive actions from the South China Sea against Japanese installations in China.
- The Astoria then contributed to the air raids on Tokyo and the landing at Iwo Jima. She fired at the shore to support the landing ground troops. Next, she moved back to Tokyo to support the ongoing bombardments. She provided anti-aircraft support, taking down or helping to take down multiple enemy planes.
- After a quick break in the Philippines in June, the Astoria was back in action for her final active combat support, once again screening aircraft carriers.
The Astoria did not serve long after the war, but she did spend several months patrolling the waters around Japan before returning to Pearl Harbor for training.
From there, she went back to San Pedro, California, and spent several months at various points along the coast. In 1946 the Astoria sailed to Guam and the Marianas.
In the later 1940s, she spent a lot of time patrolling in the Pacific, near Korea, China, and Japan. On July 1, 1949, she berthed in San Francisco before moving to San Diego, where she remained in reserve until 1969. She was then decommissioned and sent for scrapping.
How Was Asbestos Used on the USS Astoria?
The U.S. Navy chose asbestos for its ships because the natural mineral has a lot of desirable properties. No one knew for a long time that the mineral could cause some people to develop serious illnesses.
It was difficult to make the connection because asbestos exposure typically leads to symptoms of an illness like mesothelioma only decades later.
The valuable properties of asbestos, such as its ability to fireproof and insulate, were desirable for shipbuilding of all types, including cruisers like the Astoria.
Nearly all ships in the Navy from this era were constructed with asbestos in many places and components:
- Engines, turbines, boilers, and pipes were among the parts of the vessels most heavily insulated with this material.
- This equipment, as well as the pipes running throughout the ship, were wrapped in asbestos insulation to prevent heat from escaping or from causing serious burns or even fires.
- Asbestos was also used in many other parts of the Astoria and other ships, including adhesives, gaskets, seals, valves, fireproof and firefighting gear, gunner’s gloves, and flooring materials.
Which Astoria Veterans Were at Most Risk for Asbestos Exposure?
Being around asbestos is risky because if the fibers of the material come loose, anyone in the vicinity can inhale them. Once inside the body, the fibers cause damage that, in some people, will ultimately lead to diseases like asbestosis and mesothelioma.
- Because materials like insulation on a ship could easily become damaged, releasing fibers, or simply wear down over time, everyone on board was at risk of exposure.
- Some men were at a greater risk than others. Those working on maintenance and repair projects were more likely to damage and disrupt asbestos fibers. For example, the men who repaired pipes had to break through the asbestos insulation to do their work.
- Workers in the boiler rooms and with the turbines were also at an increased risk. Documented claims to the Veterans Administration include a veteran who served on the USS Astoria and later received a diagnosis of asbestosis. He testified in his claim to working with and near asbestos-covered pipes.
The veterans who served on the USS Astoria and those on other Navy ships served their country and made great sacrifices. Unfortunately, that brave service and sacrifice led to serious illness in some of these veterans. Navy veterans are more likely than other people to develop mesothelioma and other asbestos illnesses.
Compensation and Benefits Are Available to Astoria Veterans
If you have an asbestos disease and have served in the Navy, you can file a claim with the Veterans Administration. An experienced veterans’ advocate or asbestos lawyer can help you through the process. The VA offers several types of benefits for disabled Navy veterans:
- Veterans with asbestos illnesses are entitled to free VA medical care. Facilities in Boston and Los Angeles have mesothelioma specialists.
- The disability rating for mesothelioma is 100%, which means that veterans with this diagnosis may be entitled to maximum disability compensation.
- Some family members might also be entitled to compensation.
Another way veterans can seek compensation is through the companies that supplied the military with asbestos. A lawyer can help you find the companies that are responsible. You might be able to file a lawsuit to get a settlement. If the companies went bankrupt, you can make a claim with an asbestos trust.
If you or a loved one served in the Navy and have been diagnosed with mesothelioma, you have options. The VA provides healthcare and benefits, and experienced mesothelioma lawyers are standing by to help you get what you need.Get Your FREE Mesothelioma Packet
Page Written by Mary Ellen Ellis
Mary Ellen Ellis has been the head writer and editor for Mesothelioma.net since 2016. With hundreds of mesothelioma and asbestos articles to her credit, she is one of the most experienced writers on these topics. Her degrees and background in science and education help her explain complicated medical topics for a wider audience. Mary Ellen takes pride in providing her readers with the critical information they need following a diagnosis of an asbestos-related illness.
Page Edited by Patient Advocate Dave Foster
Dave has been a mesothelioma Patient Advocate for over 10 years. He consistently attends all major national and international mesothelioma meetings. In doing so, he is able to stay on top of the latest treatments, clinical trials, and research results. He also personally meets with mesothelioma patients and their families and connects them with the best medical specialists and legal representatives available.