The USNS Mission San Antonio was built by the Marine Ship Corporation in Sausalito, California under a Maritime Commission contract, and was laid down on January 15th, 1944. Sponsored by Mrs. Marian McClure, she launched on April 8th, 1944. She was delivered to the Los Angeles Tanker Operators Incorporated. Until the end of World War II, she transported fuel in the western Pacific to allied ships. On the 30th of April, she was put in the Maritime Reserve Fleet in Mobile, Alabama.
Military Sea Transport Service
On October 22nd, 1947, the U.S. Navy acquired the USNS Mission San Antonio and put her in the Naval Transportation Service; her hull designation was AO-119. The new Military Sea Transportation Service took her over on October 1st, 1949, at which point her hull designation was changed to T-AO-119. She stayed with the MSTS, but on November 22nd, 1954 she was put in the Maritime’s Administration’s Maritime Reserve Fleet at James River, Virginia. On the 6th of July, 1956, she once again went into service of the Military Sea Transportation Service. Once again she was placed in the Maritime Reserve Fleet of the Maritime Administration at Beaumont, Texas on December 16th, 1959. She only stayed for in Reserve for a brief period and was put in service of the MSTS again on June 9th, 1960.
For almost the next 5 years she served the MSTS, and on January 11th, 1965 was put back in reserve at James River, Virginia. She was struck from Navy lists that day. She was sold to Transwestern Associates and they converted her to a bulk carrier on June 9th, 1965. Her new name was the USS Transartic. MARAD then got her back on August 27th, 1965. Hudson Waterways Corporation was her next recipient on January 24th, 1966. They refit her as a container ship and train ferry. She was again renamed in September 1966, this time to Seatrain San Juan. Her new duty was to go between the east and west coasts of the U.S. carrying cargo, and occasionally also making her way to Vietnam.
Tyler Tanker Corporation bought her on June 30th, 1972, and she was once again placed in reserve on November 20th, 1973 at Fort Eustis, Virginia. Her name was shortened to the USS San Juan on August 8th, 1978. Finally, she was sold to Isaac Manuel Varela Davillo, Spain on October 26th, 1983 for scrap.
Asbestos in Navy Ships
Although an essential component of the naval fleet, some tankers 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.