USS Firedrake AE-14 (1944-1976)
The Navy named the USS Firedrake (AE-14), a Wrangell class ammunition supply ship, after a German mythological fire-breathing dragon. This nautical dragon displaced 13,900 tons and could sail at a speed of up to 17 knots. The Navy commissioned the Firedrake on December 27, 1944, in time for the end of World War II.
The Navy initially deployed the Firedrake to the Pacific Theater at the Caroline Islands. On April 7, 1945, she joined Task Group, TG, 50.8 off the coast of Okinawa where she resupplied aircraft carriers. She then moved on to Kerama Retto to resupply TG 51.1 at anchor. From there she sailed to Ulithi to take on ordnance until June 4. The Firedrake then moved to the Philippine Islands until the Japanese surrender. By October, the U.S. firmly controlled Japan and the Navy sent the Firedrake back to the East coast where she arrived at Yorktown, Virginia, on November 1. The Navy decommissioned the Firedrake on February 21, 1946.
Service in Korea and Vietnam
Due to the Korean Conflict, the Navy recommissioned the Firedrake on October 11, 1951. She moved from Texas to her new homeport in San Francisco and then deployed to the West Pacific from February 29 to August 24, 1952. While off the coast of Korea, the Firedrake resupplied warships and aircraft carriers conducting raids on North Korea. She did another deployment to Korea, accomplishing many of the same duties. After the peace treaty she would return to the West Pacific two more times and made one deployment a year until an overhaul period at the end of 1959.
Conflict in Vietnam began heating up for America in 1963 and the Firedrake operated off the coast from January until July, replenishing warships that conducted contingency operations off the coast. As tensions mounted in Vietnam, so did the number of U.S. warships off the coast. The Navy extended the Firedrake’s second tour to Vietnam which lasted an extra two months from February to October of 1964. In 1968 Naval operations had increased three fold off Vietnam and the Firedrake conducted 28 aircraft carrier deliveries and close to 120 other deliveries at sea to other ships.
The Firedrake would then make two more tours to the West Pacific before calling an end to a long career after service in three wars. The Navy decommissioned her on March19, 1971. Five years later, her name was struck from the register, and in 1977 she was sold for scrap to General Metals of Tacoma. She earned two battle stars for World War II and four for the Korean War.
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.