The USS Arkansas was a Wyoming class battleship, commissioned on September 17, 1912 in Philadelphia, PA. It was built in Camden, New Jersey by the New York Shipbuilding Corporation. Initially it served as part of the Atlantic Fleet. Early duties of the Arkansas included a tour in the Mediterranean. In 1914, President Wilson sent the ship to Mexico as part of a U.S. operation to protect Americans following a coup and the rise of a Mexican dictator.
Action in World War I
During World War I the Arkansas became part of the British Grand Fleet 6th Battle Squadron. The war ended in 1918. The Arkansas was among other ships present when the German High Seas Fleet surrendered.
In 1919, the Arkansas became part of the Pacific Fleet. It traveled through the Panama Canal to San Francisco, CA. The Arkansas however stayed in the Pacific waters for 2 years, before going back to the Atlantic. The main duties during 1923-1924 consisted of training and carrying midshipmen to European destinations. In 1925 it returned to the west coast of the U.S.
When it returned to the United States, the Arkansas underwent overhaul. Overhauls included replacing coal burning boilers with oil burning ones and installing more deck armor. It went from two stacks to one. The mast was replaced with a low tripod.
The Arkansas continued taking midshipmen to European destinations during 1929-1931 and 1934-1937. From 1932-1934 it spent its time on the U.S. west coast as flagship of the Training Squadron. In 1941, during WWII the Arkansas escorted British soldiers to Iceland. It was also part of the contingent present when P.M. Churchill met with President Roosevelt during the Atlantic Charter Conference.
Action in World War II
After the U.S. officially entered WWII in December 1941, the Arkansas was doing war training maneuvers and escorting convoys throughout the Atlantic. In 1942 the Arkansas was once again given modernization. The secondary battery of guns was downsized to 6 five-inch 130 millimeter/fifty one caliber guns.
In 1944, the Arkansas fired upon the beaches of Normandy and Cherbourg. When France was invaded in August 1944, the Arkansas was there. In 1945, the Arkansas played a part on the attacks of both Iwo Jima and Okinawa. After the surrender of Japan, it was used to transport soldiers home from the Pacific.
After the War
In 1946, considered outdated, the Arkansas was purposefully sunk. The first attempt with an atomic weapon damaged the topside but did little to the hull and turrets. On July 25th, 1946, an underwater nuclear test known as BAKER destroyed and sunk the Arkansas. It still rests at the bottom of Bikini Atoll and was officially decommissioned on July 29, 1946, and was removed from the register on August 15, 1946.
Asbestos in Navy Ships
Although an essential component of the naval fleet throughout conflicts during the last century, battleships also posed a lasting health risk to soldiers who served on them. Unfortunately, products containing asbestos were common on these 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.