The U.S. Navy built the USS General A. W. Brewster, a Squier-class transport ship, late in World War II. The Navy named the ship after General Andre Walker Brewster, a medal of honor recipient and veteran of three wars. The Navy commissioned the Brewster on April 23, 1945, in time for the end of the war. The ship displaced 9,950 tons and had a length of 522 feet, a beam of 71 feet, and a draft of 24 feet. She had a steam turbine with a single screw and was capable of making 17 knots. She had 356 officers and enlisted and had the capacity to embark 3,823 troops. For her protection, she had four 5-inch guns, four 40-mm anti-aircraft guns, and sixteen 20-mm anti-aircraft guns.
Service in World War II and Korea
After the Brewster’s training cruise, she steamed to England to transport troops to the Pacific. The Brewster arrived in England on June 20, 1945. After disembarking her troops in England, she sailed through the Panama Canal and arrived in New Guinea on July 27. The Brewster then sailed on to the Philippines, where she moored until the Japanese surrender. After the war, she was loaded to the brim with U.S. war veterans and sailed for San Francisco. She arrived in the port on September 1.
The A. W. Brewster made three more voyages to the Pacific and Far East, transporting thousands of U.S. soldiers home in the months following the Japanese surrender. The Navy decommissioned the Brewster on April 10, 1946. Her decommissioning was short lived, and the Navy recommissioned her for the Korean conflict on March 1, 1950. In this time period, the ship sailed under the Military Sea Transportation Service with a civilian crew. During the Korean War, the Brewster carried over 67,000 troops to Korea and Japan. For her service during the Korean conflict, she received five battle stars.
After the War
After Korea, the Navy sent the Brewster to Indochina for Operation Passage to Freedom, where the United States used the ship to evacuate thousands of war refugees out of war-torn Vietnam from September to November 1954. The Navy decommissioned her once again on July 26, 1955. She remained anchored in Suisun Bay near the San Francisco Bay until she was sold into commercial service in 1968. As a container ship, she sailed under the name of SS Philadelphia until being sold to Taiwan for scrap in 1987.
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 to detect possible health consequences associated with asbestos exposure.