USNS Asterion T-AF-63 (1944-1973)
The Acadia Victory was first laid down on 10 June 1944 as part of the Maritime Commission Contract. American President Lines, Ltd received the ship on 3 September 1944 where it operated for the next eight years. In 1953, the ship was sent to dock and made part of the National Defense Reserve Fleet (NDRF) where it remained until 1961. On 12 November 1961, the Navy acquired the ship from the NDRF and commissioned her USNS Asterion T-AF-63, the second ship to hold this name. After her new commission, she was sent to Oregon to be converted to a refrigerated store vessel. After the refit, the USNS Asterion began duty in the Pacific. Naval store ships, like the Asterion, were used to provide fresh, frozen, and dried goods to ships and far reaching ports. They should not be confused with transport ships that were used to carry personnel, ammunition, and other hard supplies. Store ships were first used by the Navy in the War of 1812. Prior to this date, when an enemy ship was captured it was “stored” with supplies and towed along with the group.
Service in the Vietnam War
For the next decade, the Asterion delivered fresh and frozen food to ports and U.S. ships in the Far East. Once the Vietnam conflict began, the Asterion delivered food and supplies to ports throughout South Vietnam. The Asterion was only damaged once in her career, and it was not war related. The incident occured off the San Francisco coast when she collided with a Japanese freighter. The bow was easily repaired and the transport ship returned quickly to duty. In 1967 the Asterion was awarded the Smart Ship Award by the Military Sea Transportation Service, the group of service ships to which she belonged. The Asterion returned to Yokahama on 8 June 1973 and was decommissioned the same day. She was struck from the Naval Vessel list on 15 June 1973. The Ship was sold to Canada in August of 1973. The fate of the ship remains unknown.
Asbestos in Navy Ships
Although an essential component of the naval fleet, some auxiliary vessels also posed 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.