The USS Haleakala launched from Baltimore, Maryland, in February 1959. Released by the Bethlehem Shipbuilding Corporation, the ammunition ship was sponsored by Mrs. Maurice E. Curtis, the wife of Vice Admiral Maurice Curtis. Commissioned in November of the same year, the ship was captained by Captain Miles P. Refo, III.
Service in the Pacific
After a testing period in Guantanamo Bay, the USS Haleakala crossed the Panama Canal and made stops in both Chile and Costa Rica before it reached its final destination of San Francisco in March 1960. The Haleakala was an ammunition ship designed to carry and transfer the latest munitions and guided missiles. During the first part of April, the Haleakala spent time in action with the stores ship USS Vega (AF-59) conducting replenishment exercises to test new equipment. In the middle of 1960, the Haleakala left San Francisco, journeying westward to Pearl Harbor, then Yokosuka, and Sasebo. During the trip the ship also provided service to various units within the 7th Fleet before she made her return trip to California in December.
The second deployment of the USS Haleakala sent the ship toward the Western Pacific in April 1961. The ship was again used to service various ships in the 7th Fleet and made her return trip in September of the same year. The next month, accompanied by the USS Mount Katmai (AE-16), the Haleakala went on the cruise toward Long Beach, California, to be a part of the Exercise Covered Wagon, which was an effort to carry out a realistic test of what could be expected of the Attack Carrier Strike Force in the event of a potential enemy strike. This exercise was extremely important during this time to gauge the preparedness of the U.S. Navy.
The Haleakala made two more trips to the Western Pacific during May 1962 and February 1964. During these cruises, the ship carried out tasks similar to those of previous trips. Once she arrived in the United States again in 1964, the Haleakala was refurbished and modernized to increase her efficiency. After remodeling was complete, the ship made its way to Pearl Harbor to help with Vietnam efforts. Most of 1966 was spent deployed in the Western Pacific, but the ship returned to San Francisco in September 1966, and after some training exercises, the ship was sent back to Vietnam.
The USS Haleakala remained under commission in the U.S. Navy until December 10, 1993, when she was struck from the official records. She was sold the next year.
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.