USS Boston CA-169 (1887-1946)

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USS Boston was an Atlanta class protected cruiser launched by John Roach & Sons and built at Chester, Pennsylvania. Weighing in at 3189 tons, she was commissioned in May of 1887 as one of the vanguards of the “New Navy.” Operating actively in the Atlantic Ocean until 1891, she spent much of her duty as a member of the elite Squadron of Evolution, cruising to and from the Mediterranean Sea and the waters near South America. In 1891, the Boston circled around the tip of Cape Horn and onward to the Pacific, where she spent the duration of her service. During the next few years she was stationed in Hawaii and eventually found her way to the dock of the Mare Island Navy Yard in California.

Action in the Pacific

In November of 1895, USS Boston was recommissioned and returned to active duty. She crossed the Pacific once more to take station in Asia. Three years later in the Spanish-American War, USS Boston participated in a number of battle operations near the Philippines, including the famed Battle of Manila Bay. The cruiser would return to Mare Island once more in August of 1899. In August of 1902 she returned to active duty for a joint operation with the Pacific Squadron, and in June of 1905 she assisted civilian and emergency operations such as the Lewis and Clark Exposition at Portland, Oregon, and the earthquake recovery efforts following the infamous disaster at San Francisco in 1906.

After Combat

The Boston’s seafaring naval duties ended in June of 1907. Docked at the Puget Sound Navy Yard until June of 1911, she would later find new life as an Oregon Naval Militia training ship. She remained at this position for the next five years. She was then loaned to the United States Shipping Board during most of World War I, and afterward converted to a receiving ship at the Yerba Buena Naval Training Station in San Francisco, California.

The Boston remained there for two decades until August of 1940, when she was renamed Despatch and reclassified IX-2 in order to free her original name for use on a new heavy cruiser, the USS Boston CA-69. Throughout World War II she remained laid up at Yerba Buena. Then, after nearly 60 years of service, the old vessel was towed to sea and deliberately sunk in April of 1946 near San Francisco Bay.

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.


Naval Historical Center


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