The USS Astoria CL 90 was one of four naval vessels which took her name in honor of Astoria, Oregon. Built by William Cramp & Sons at the shipyards in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, this 10,000 ton Cleveland-class cruiser was commissioned in May of 1944. Initially named the USS Wilkes Barre, she assumed the Astoria moniker to honor the USS Astoria CA-34 that was sunk following the Battle of Savo Island in 1942. She was launched as the Astoria in 1943 in a ceremony presided over by the wife of the Astorian-Budget’s editor, Mrs. Robert Lucas.
Action in World War II
Following her shakedown cruise in the Western Atlantic, the Astoria then made her way through the Panama Canal to join in the military effort against Japanese forces taking place in the Pacific Ocean. This cruiser’s initial combat operation occurred in December of 1944 during the Mindoro invasion when she screened 38 air craft carriers.
Through the spring of 1945, the Astoria continued escort duties around Japan, Formosa and the Asian mainland, also supporting amphibious maneuvers around Iwo Jima, Okinawa and Luzon. During a two month period between March and May, the Astoria was credited with shooting down eleven enemy aircraft during intense fighting. Following a brief layover in the Philippine Islands for repairs, the Astoria rejoined the war effort for additional raids against the Japanese that took place in July and August along with anti-shipping sweeps along enemy coastal waters.
After the War
Following the war effort, the Astoria served three years in Central Pacific waters between California and Hawaii. A cruise in Far Eastern waters that lasted between fall of 1948 and spring of 1949 was this carrier’s last official service. The Astoria was decommissioned in early July of 1949. For the next 20 years, she served as part of the Pacific Reserve Fleet, based initially at San Francisco and moving in 1958 to San Diego.
From her San Diego port, the Astoria served an additional 11 years as part of the Pacific Reserve Fleet. On November 1, 1969, her name was officially struck from the Naval Vessel Register, ending a 25 year career of service. The Nicolai Joffe Corporation headquartered in Beverly Hills, California, purchased the USS Astoria in 1971 for scrapping.
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.