USS Herkimer AK-188 (1945-1973)
The USS Herkimer was commissioned in July of 1945 and had her shakedown training in the Gulf of Mexico. After she received her cargo load in Gulfport, she headed towards the Western Pacific.
Service in Japan and Korea
She reached Subic Bay in October of 1945, where she unloaded her refrigerated cargo and took on more supplies for the forces occupying Japan. She brought the cargo to Sasebo and remained there until December. Arriving in Yokohama at the beginning of January 1946, the Herkimer was decommissioned and her Navy gear removed. She was subsequently transferred to the Army.
While operating with the Supreme Commander of Allied Forces, the cargo ship was manned by a crew of Japanese merchantmen. She was returned to the Navy in 1950, where she was refitted and put in the Military Sea Transport Service under the designation T-AK-188. With a civilian crew, the Herkimer brought much-needed supplies from Japan to American posts in Korea. These duties continued even after a truce was declared in 1953. The next year, she joined Operation Passage to Freedom to transport supplies and Vietnamese soldiers and civilians from North to South Vietnam. She sailed this route three times and returned to Japan, to Kobe this time.
After the War
The Herkimer remained in the Western Pacific for nearly two decades and operated between ports in Japan, Korea, and the Philippines. Between 1961 and 1965, she brought military supplies to what was then known as Formosa and now known as Taiwan. During the Vietnam War, she made several supply runs to South Vietnam.
In 1973, the USS Herkimer was taken out of service and her name struck from the Naval Register. She served for a time with the Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands navy, but was returned to the U.S. and sold into commercial service in 1982. Her fate after that remains unknown.
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.