Right at the end of World War II, the USS Columbus was built in Quincy, Massachusetts, and commissioned in June of 1945. She participated in the occupation of Japan and China in 1946, and was transferred to the Atlantic in 1948. From 1948 to 1951 she served in the European and Mediterranean waters as the U.S. Navy flagship. She joined the Sixth Fleet in 1952 and served there until January of 1955.
In December of 1955, Columbus returned to the Pacific Fleet and went on a Western Pacific cruise until the middle of 1956. She served in the Far East in the years of 1957 and 1958, during the time that Taiwan was facing the crisis over a couple of islands named Matsu and Quemoy.
The ship Columbus was decommissioned in May of 1959 so that she could undergo a conversion into a guided missile cruiser. Later, in September of 1959 she received a new hull number of CG-12, which had been changed from the old hull number of CA-74. She then spent the next three years undergoing mass reconstruction in the Puget Sound Navy Yard in Bremerton, Washington.
The reconstruction that needed to be done in order for Columbus to undergo a successful conversion included tasks like: removing all her guns, removing her upper deck and interior structures, and installing a new and very tall superstructure that could carry many radar antennas and other electronic devices. Launchers and magazines for missiles were installed and fitted to each side of the ship. This and much more helped change the Columbus’s capabilities as well as its appearance.
Columbus was recommissioned in December of 1962 and was used for training operations for a while before being deployed to the Western Pacific cruise in 1964. January of 1966 brought Columbus to the Atlantic Fleet, and she began a deployment to the Mediterranean Sea in October of that same year.
The Sixth Fleet tour ended in 1967, at which time Columbus had been operating off the U.S. East Coast and in the Caribbean. She went once more to the Mediterranean in January of 1968, and operated there periodically through February of 1971. From November 1973 through May 1974 the ship conducted her final deployment for the Sixth Fleet and was decommissioned in January of 1975. In August of 1977, Columbus was sold for scrapping after being stricken from the Naval Vessel Register.
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.