USS Cacapon AO-52 (1943-1960)
The Cacapon was a U.S. fuel tanker that was acquired and commissioned by the Navy on September 21st under the command of Lieutenant Commander G. Eyth. During its career, the Cacapon earned four battle stars for World War II service and nine battle stars for its Korean War service.
Service in World War II
The ship’s first mission saw it joining the 5th Fleet to take fuel to ships involved in the Gilbert Islands operation. After an overhaul, the Cacapon returned to the Pacific theater to act as logistic support to Task Force 50 during the Marshall Islands operation. From March to May of 1944, the ship carried fuel for the 3rd Fleet during strikes against the Admiralty Islands, among others. It also briefly served with the 7th Fleet’s support group during the New Guinea operation.
The ship spent the rest of 1944 as a station tanker in the same area, then left for Ulithi on January 8th, 1945 to join the 3rd Fleet once again. In the latter half of January, the Cacapon supported Task Force 38 during the strikes in the Philippines, then spent February as part of the 5th Fleet during the taking of Iwo Jima. The ship continued its support in the Far East until the end of the war, taking part in the Okinawa operation and aiding the 3rd Fleet during the air attacks on Japan.
After the end of the war, the Cacapon sailed to San Pedro, California for an overhaul, but soon returned to the Far East and spent time shuttling occupation forces between Japan and China. In April of 1946, while preparing for its next mission at Kwajalein Atoll, the ship ran into a shoal that damaged its engine and fire rooms, leaving it dead in the water. With the aid of other ships in the area, the Cacapon returned to San Pedro for repairs. It did not sail again until December of that year, when it left to join Operation “High-Jump” in the Antarctic.
From 1947 to 1950, the ship made two Far Eastern tours, then transitioned into providing wartime support duties once again with the start of the Korean War. Its service in supporting the landings at Inchon on September 15th, 1950, earned it the Navy Unit Commendation. After the end of the war, the Cacapon remained in the Far East as part of the 7th Fleet and the Taiwan Patrol Force through 1960.
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.