The USS Helena was constructed in Quincy, Massachusetts, in 1945. She was a Baltimore class heavy cruiser and weighed approximately 13,600 tons. In September of 1945, the Helena had her initial introduction in New York City at the Navy Day fleet review. In February of the following year, she traveled to Europe to serve as a flagship vessel for the 12th Fleet.
Action in Korea
In May she sailed from Europe to the Far East in order to be stationed there periodically. This initial tour marked the first deployment out of fourteen located in the Western Pacific that comprised a significant portion of this vessel’s lengthy career. After her third deployment in the Western Pacific, the Helena was recalled as a result of the initiation of the Korean War.
In 1950, the Helena served as a source of heavy gunfire against attacks by North Korea, and also supported offensive tactics by the United States. She went on two more war cruises in 1951 and 1952. It was during these years, in July of 1951, that she sustained minor damage from enemy weaponry. At the end of this combat, after the ship’s third deployment for use against North Korea, the ship transported President Eisenhower to Hawaii following his visit to Korea after his election.
After the War
Despite the end of the Korean War, this ship continued to sail to the Far East. In 1955 she was involved in the evacuation of the Tachen Islands. In September 1958 she participated in the Quemoy crisis, and in the following month was able to rescue passengers from the Hoi Wong, a stranded merchant ship.
The Helena took her final voyage to the East in 1961 after the vessel was refitted in 1960 in order to serve as the flagship of the first fleet for the United States. The end of the Helena’s career came when the ship was taken out of commission in June of 1963 and placed in reserve. Finally, the ship was sold for scrap parts in October of 1974.
Asbestos in Navy Ships
Although an essential component of the naval fleet, even today, naval cruisers also pose 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.