USS Belleau Wood CVL-24 (1943-1960)
The USS Belleau Wood CVL-24 was constructed in Camden, New Jersey in 1943. It is an Independence class small aircraft carrier that weighs 11,000 tons. When construction of the Belleau Wood was started, she was to be the New Haven (CL-76), but was converted to an aircraft carrier and was commissioned in March of 1943. At this point her number was CV-24, but by the time she joined the war against Japan in July of 1943, her number was changed again to CVL-24.
Action in World War II
After joining the war, and for the rest of 1943, she participated in raids on the Wake Islands and Tarawa, as well as having a major part in the invasion of the Gilbert Islands. For the first six months of 1944, she changed operations. The Belleau Wood was one of the carriers that provided planes for the Marshall Islands operation which consisted of raiding the enemy positions all over the Central Pacific. This operation led to the conquering of Saipan.
Planes from the Belleau Wood then went on to sink the aircraft carrier Hiyo from Japan. This took place in the middle of June in the midst of the Battle of the Philippine Sea. After this, she took a brief rest for repairs. Then she joined Task Force 58 and took part in operations to conquer Moratai, Guam and the Palaus. Also, she once again helped attack the Philippines and took part in raids on Okinawa and Formosa. Next, she moved on to participate in the Battle of Leyt Gulf in late October of 1944.
On the 30th of October, she suffered her first major damage after being hit by a Japanese suicide bomber. This resulted in a major fire and 92 deaths. After this incident she returned to the US for a major overhaul. After being fixed up, she returned to duty in February of 1945 in the Western Pacific war zone. Here she helped support the Marines on Iwo Jima, and she also helped attack the Japanese Home Islands. After this, and for the rest of the war, she helped wherever needed around Japan.
After the War
The war was officially over when the Formal surrender of Japan happened on the 2nd of September, 1945. Her planes were part of the aircraft flyover that took place then. She spent the time after occupation until early 1946 helping out by transporting US service personnel back home. She was finally place out-of-commission in January of 1947.
Her final action took place when loaned to France in 1953, where she served the French Navy. In 1960 she was returned and sold for scrap.
Asbestos in Navy Ships
Although an essential component of the naval fleet, even today, aircraft carriers also pose a lasting health risk to soldiers serving on them. Unfortunately, products containing asbestos were common, especially on older ships, because of the material’s high resistance to heat and fire. Despite its value as an insulator, asbestos fiber intake can lead to several serious health consequences, including mesothelioma, a devastating cancer without cure. Current and former military personnel who came into contact with these ships should seek immediate medical attention in order to detect possible health consequences associated with asbestos exposure.