The USS Gardiners Bay, a Navy seaplane tender constructed during World War II, was launched on December 2, 1944, from Houghton, Washington. Sponsored by Mrs. George L. Richard, the ship received her commission at the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard at Bremerton on February 11, 1945. She departed in March for a shakedown cruise out of San Diego.
Service in World War II and Korea
Passing through Pearl Harbor, the Gardiners Bay first visited the Marshall Islands for exercises with Patrol Bombing Squadron 19. From there, she proceeded to Saipan, Guam, and finally Kerama Retto to drop off supplies for Fleet Air Wing 1. She stayed in the area for several weeks, tending planes. That summer, she was made flagship of an Air-Sea Rescue Unit, completing 18 rescue missions. After this, she joined up with Rescue Squadron 6 near Okinawa for the remainder of the war.
After the surrender of Japan, the Gardiners Bay supported the occupying forces, once again being designated as a flagship of a rescue unit. She helped with the establishment of the Tokyo Seadrome before porting at Nagoya, tending courier and travelling seaplanes. For the first half of 1946, she sailed in Chinese waters, but returned by way of several Pacific island groups to the Puget Sound shipyard for refurbishment.
When the war with Korea broke out, the Gardiners Bay was sent back to Japan in 1950. She was then assigned to tend planes near Inchon, Korea, and establish a seadrome near Chinhae to serve as her own port. After two more Korean patrols, the ship took a brief detour to French Indochina to help test communication systems. Her fourth patrol took her back to Chinhae until the war ended in July of 1953. For her service, the Gardiners Bay earned two battle stars in World War II and four in Korea.
After the War
In the years following the Korean War, the Gardiners Bay sailed with the Seventh Fleet, tending planes at Okinawa and Manila, as well as at Japanese seaports at Iwakuni, Sasebo, and Yokohama. She arrived at Alameda, California, in 1957 and was decommissioned the next year. She found new life in Norway, though, where she was transferred as part of the Military Assistance Program. Under the new name Haakon VII, she helped train cadets in the Royal Norwegian navy until 1974, when she was scrapped.
Asbestos in Navy Ships
Although an essential component of the naval fleet, some tenders and tugs 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.