The USS Chester was a Northampton-class light cruiser in the 9200 ton weight class. She was later reclassified as a heavy cruiser and her designation was changed from CL-27 to CA-27. The Chester was constructed by the New York Shipbuilding Company in June, 1929, and then commissioned on June 24, 1930, under the command of Captain Arthur Fairfield. Throughout the 1930s, the Chester was active in various fleet exercises and good will missions. She was placed in the Scouting Fleet as their flagship, and visited Europe on an extensive cruise through August of 1930.
Action in World War II
In 1941, she was ordered to station at Pearl Harbor, where she participated primarily in escort duty. She was returning from escort duty with two ships, the Northampton and the Enterprise, from Wake Island when Pearl Harbor was bombarded. In 1942, after the beginning of World War II, the Chester was stationed at Pearl Harbor. She participated as a member of Task Group 8.3 in the Guadalcanal-Tulagi Raid on May 4th and the Battle of the Coral Sea on May 8th, during which five of her crew were wounded. On May 10th, she took on nearly 500 survivors from the USS Lexington.
After being overhauled on the west coast, the Chester arrived at Noumea on September 21, 1942, to assist in landing operations and support missions. However, a month later on October 20th, she was hit by a torpedo on the starboard side, killing eleven and wounding twelve – after which she returned to Norfolk for a complete overhaul.
After being repaired, the USS Chester returned to San Francisco on September 13, 1943, where she functioned as an escort between that point and Pearl Harbor under October 20th. She was then ordered on November 8th to assist in the invasions of the Marshall Islands, where she provided cover fire on Abemama Island. In late 1944, she was sent to the North Pacific, where she attacked Japanese held islands in the Kuriles until June.
After the War
Near the end of the war, in February 1945, the Chester assisted in the invasion of Iwo Jima, providing support fire. She also patrolled off the coasts of Okinawa and China, under orders to provide assistance in occupation activities. After being decommissioned in June 1946, she was placed in reserve, and was eventually sold as scrap in August of 1959.
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.