The USS Alaska (CB-1) became the third ship named after the then Alaska territory when she was first commissioned in June of 1944. The 27,500-ton ship was the first of the Alaska class large cruisers of that weight to be built. It was the practice at the time to name such a class of ships after territories or insular areas of the United States. The Alaska was constructed in Camden, New Jersey at the New York Shipbuilding Corporation.
Action in World War II
The Alaska was the first of three battle cruisers of her class and became the first battle cruiser to be fully constructed by the United States. The USS Alaska was launched on August 15, 1943 and commissioned on June 17, 1944, with some modifications. Following shakedown training with the USS Missouri (BB-63) in Chesapeake Bay and the Caribbean, the vessel was sent to the Pacific in December of 1944. Shortly after being involved in the shelling of a small Japanese island, the vessel was part of the fast carrier task forces at Ulithi by February of 1945.
The USS Alaska was a key part of anti-aircraft protection for carriers in the area during raids carried out on Japanese home islands as part of the Okinawa campaign from February through July of 1945. The ship fired two shore bombardment missions using its 12 inch guns. In July and August, the USS Alaska, along with sister ship the Guam and four light cruisers, was a part of raids in the East China Sea.
After the War
Following the Japanese surrender on August 15, 1945, the USS Alaska was part of a show of force in major Japanese ports in the Yellow Sea and served to support the landing of occupying troops in Korea. The Alaska returned to the United States on December 18, 1945, when she arrived at the Boston Naval Yard. Alaska was assigned a permanent berthing area at Bayonne, New Jersey. The ship was then officially decommissioned on February 17, 1947. The USS Alaska was sold on June 30, 1960, to Luria Brothers of New York City (Lipsett Division) where she was broken down for scrap.
Asbestos in Navy Ships
Although an essential component of the naval fleet, even today, naval cruisers 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.