USS Denebola AF-56 (1954-1976)

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The USS Denebola AF-56 was a Denebola-class stores ship. This class of ship was used mainly to transport supplies, mostly refrigerated, to ships, staging areas, and remote stations. She was the second Denebola to be so-named by the Navy and she was constructed at Oregon Shipbuilding company in Portland, Oregon and launched on June 10th, 1944 as part of the Navy’s “Victory” program; she was called Hibbing Victory and her sponsor was Miss J. A. Bush. The Navy acquired her on May 1st, 1952 and converted her to a refrigerated store ship at the New York Naval Shipyard, where she was also renamed Denebola. She was then put into commission on January 20th, 1954, and her captain was chosen as Commander S. E. Ramey. For the next 12 months she went to Guantanamo Bay for her shakedown exercises, and went to Ireland for a Midshipman training cruise. She also did an exercise with the Atlantic Fleet.

Service in the Mediterranean, Caribbean, and Atlantic

For the next two decades, the USS Denebola had pretty repetetive duties. She went to the Mediterranean Sea two to four times a year, meeting the United States Sixth Fleet to provide provisions and supplies. She also occasionally provided supplies and provisions to various other fleets in the Caribbean and Atlantic during this time.

The Denebola also stopped for repairs and overhauls. She was given an upgrade in 1963, including a helicopter landing pad, which meant that in addition to being able to transfer cargo by high-line, she could supplement the transfer of supplies with helicopters as she cruised next to the ships she was supplying.

The Denebola guarded President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s plane on a return trip from a Paris NATO conference in 1957, and in the Mediterranean she supplied ships on patrol after the Lebanon crisis in Beirut in 1958.

After Service

After her final tour to the Mediterranean, she left active duty near the end of April 1976. She was put out of commission that month, and struck from the register on April 30th. She was then sold for scrap on December 1st, 1976.  She was awarded a Navy Meritorious Unit Commendation, two National Defense Service Medals and two Armed Forces Expeditionary Medals.

Asbestos in Navy Ships

Although an essential component of the naval fleet, some auxiliary vessels 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.


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