Built in the New York Shipyard, the 9650-ton Brooklyn class light cruiser, the Honolulu, made its shakedown cruise to England after it’s commissioning in June 1938. It cruised the Atlantic and Caribbean until, in May 1939, the Navy transferred it to the Pacific Ocean.
Action in World War II
Because the Navy moved the Honolulu to the Pearl Harbor Naval Base in November 1940, it was bombed by the Japanese on December 7, 1941, during the raid on Pearl Harbor. Quickly repaired, it was back for war duty in January 1942.
For the next five months, it carried out escort duties between the United States and the South Pacific. Then, in May of 1942, it deterred enemy advances into the Aleutians. August of the same year found the Honolulu both bombarding Kiska and defending the U.S. occupation of Adak. Next, the USS Honolulu was renovated and returned to the South Pacific to assist in the Guadalcanal Campaign. It was the only U.S. cruiser not torpedoed in the November 1942 Battle of Tassafaronga. Therefore, it was present during the surface striking forces that initialized the thrust into the Solomons in early 1943.
For the rest of 1943, the Honolulu was occupied with bombarding Japanese bases in Munda and Vila. Then, it did its part in the Rendova-New Georgia assault. Next, on July 6th, it fought in the Battle of Kula Gulf against enemy warships. On July 13th, while engaging the enemy’s war vessels in the Battle of Kolombangara, the cruiser received so much damage from a torpedo that it was forced to return to the United States for restoration.
Still, the Navy had the Honolulu back in working order in early December 1943. It returned to the South Pacific, and on into 1944 it took part in Bougainville and other operations to achieve isolation of the Japanese Rabaul stronghold. In June 1944, it traveled northward and bombarded Saipan and Guam, participating in the Marianas offensive. Defending the landings in Palaus and at Leyte, the enemy hit the Honolulu cruiser, the victim of an aerial assault, on October 20, 1944.
After the War
Once more, the Honolulu returned to the United States for repair. The overhaul took until after the end of World War II. Then, it was briefly a training vessel. The Navy decommissioned it in February 1947 in the Philadelphia shipyard. There it served as part of the Reserve Fleet until late 1959 when the Navy sold it for scrap.
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.