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USS Miami (CL-89)

The USS Miami was one of the light cruisers of the Cleveland class, a group of ships built during and for service in World War II. Like the other members of its class the Miami was not active long after the war, but played a crucial role in Pacific operations and earned several battle stars. She was decommissioned in 1947 but not struck until the early 1960s, at which time she was scrapped.

The Miami was also similar to other navy ships in that she was built using a lot of asbestos in components ranging from the boilers that powered her to the fireproofing that was supposed to keep men safe. The asbestos used on the ship has been problematic for many of the veterans who served on her. They were put at risk of asbestos exposure and many were actually diagnosed with related illnesses, including lung cancer and mesothelioma.

About the USS Miami

The USS Miami was laid down on August 2, 1941 at the William Cramp & Sons Shipbuilding Company in Philadelphia. The construction was completed and the ship, designated CL-89, was launched on December 8, 1942. The Miami was commissioned on December 28, 1943 under the leadership of Captain John G. Crawford. The CL-89 Miami was the second ship in the U.S. Navy to be named for the city of Miami.

As a member of the Cleveland class of cruisers, the Miami was designed to range farther than predecessors and to have more and better anti-aircraft weapons, as air warfare had become more commonplace after World War I. The Miami measured 610 feet in length and was able to displace over 14,000 tons when full. The complement of officers and enlisted men that the ship could hold numbered 1,255. She was powered and propelled by steam boilers and turbines, equipment that came from manufacturers with a lot of asbestos insulation.

Active Service in World War II

The Miami’s service in the war didn’t begin until she left Boston on April 16, 1944, following shakedown training in the Caribbean and exercises along the east coast. Along with her sister-ships Houston and Vincennes, the Miami steamed down to the Panama Canal and headed for San Diego, Pearl Harbor, and then the western Pacific for her first deployment.

She first joined up with the Fast Carrier Task Force and participated in air strikes during the Marianas campaign. Attacks were made on Guam, the Bonin Islands, Pagan, Saipan, and other targets. The Miami played several important roles during the campaign, including providing air support for the troops going ashore on the islands, raiding Iwo Jima, and rescuing downed American pilots.

In October of 1944 the Miami participated in air strikes on Okinawa and took down one enemy plane and helping to bring down another. The same month she took part in the Battle of Leyte Gulf in the Philippines. The Miami’s primary role during this intense battle to win the archipelago back from Japan was to protect the carriers, Intrepid, Bunker Hill, Hancock, Independence, and Cabot. She also sank a Japanese destroyer, the Nowaki.

In December the Miami and other ships were caught in a typhoon to the east of Luzon. The Miami lost a plane during the storm and suffered damage to the hull. She helped with search and rescue efforts the next day, after the storm had cleared. In January of 1945 the Miami supported air strikes on several locations, including Hong Kong and Luzon. She participated in strikes as well, shooting down at least one enemy plane, before steaming to Tokyo to aid in strikes there.

The Miami left the Pacific Theater in May and headed to San Francisco for upgrades and repairs, and while in port the war ended with the surrender of Japan. After being fixed up, the Miami headed back to the western Pacific. She accepted surrenders of several islands near Okinawa and performed other post-war duties. She left for Long Beach, California in December and participated in training for naval reservists until she was decommissioned and was entered into the reserve fleet in 1947. She was not struck from the Naval Vessel Register until 1961. She was sold for scrapping in 1962.

Asbestos on the USS Miami

The USS Miami was just one of many U.S. Navy vessels that used asbestos during its construction. Hundreds of components that went into navy ships built from the 1930s to the 1970s were made with asbestos because of its low cost, availability, light weight, and its insulating and fireproofing abilities. Much of the insulation was used around boilers and turbines, and on the many pipes crisscrossing the ship. The insulation kept heat in, prevented burns and overheating, and helped protect against fire. Fireproofing material with asbestos was also used in many of these areas to prevent what could quickly become a disaster on a ship at sea.

In addition to the asbestos used in insulation and fireproofing, many other smaller parts of the Miami and other navy ships included asbestos: gaskets, seals, deck matting, ropes, gloves worn by gunners, firefighting gear, wall and floor materials, adhesives, and much more. The use of asbestos in the Miami was extensive and has been documented.

Asbestos Exposure

The problem with using so much asbestos on ships like the Miami was that exposure was possible and exposure to asbestos can cause mesothelioma, asbestosis, lung cancer, and potentially other types of respiratory illnesses as well. This happens when someone inhales the fibers of asbestos. When well contained, this is not much of a risk, but on a ship, damage, maintenance work, and regular wear and tear can cause those fibers to work loose from materials.

The men who served on the Miami and other ships in the U.S. Navy built when asbestos was in regular use, were put at risk of exposure just by doing their jobs and serving their country. Anyone on board could have been exposed, but certain jobs and duties made exposure more likely. Those stationed in the boiler room, for instance, were at serious risk because of how much asbestos was used there and because of poor ventilation. Those who worked on maintaining or repairing materials and equipment that contained asbestos were also at serious risk of exposure and later illness.

While exposure to asbestos was a possibility for anyone serving on the Miami, not all veterans got sick later. For those who did, the Veterans Administration offers medical care and compensation. If you want to make a claim, let an experienced mesothelioma lawyer guide you through the process and get you what you deserve.

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