On June 19, 1943, the USS Houston, a Cleveland-class light cruiser, was launched in Newport News, Virginia by the Newport News Shipbuilding and Dry Dock Company. It was commissioned on December 20, 1943.
Action in World War II
On May 6, 1944, the Houston arrived in Pearl Harbor and days later joined the Fast Carrier Task Force. Its mission was to participate in the Mariana and Palau Islands Invasion. On June 19, 1944, the Houston, along with the rest of the fleet, advanced towards the Japanese to engage in one of the biggest aircraft carrier battles of the war. The American fleet defeated the Japanese forces. With the Mariana Islands protected, the Houston stayed behind to monitor carrier strikes.
On June 26, 1944, it participated in an attack on Rota and Guam. The attack left an airstrip and a radar station crippled. On August 12, 1944, the Houston reported to Eniwetok for its next operation. A month later, it engaged in air attacks against Palau.
On October 1, 1944, the Houston traveled to Ulithi and began preparations for air strikes in the western Pacific. Afterwards, the cruiser moved toward Formosa. There the Houston engaged in several attacks. The ship was able to shoot down three torpedo bombers, but a fourth one hit the ship’s engine room, damaging the propulsive power. The Houston needed to be towed to Ulithi to be repaired and arrived there on October 27, 1944. Over a two month period, repairs were made to prepare the Houston to be transferred to New York.
The Houston made the long journey to the New York Navy Yard where it received extensive repairs. It arrived on March 24, 1945. Between March of 1945 and October of 1945, the Houston was given a total reworking. When it was completely repaired and ready to return to active duty, World War II had already come to an end.
After the War
The Houston joined the Atlantic Fleet and spent two years running operations in the Mediterranean and the European waters. The cruiser’s first run was between April of 1946 and December of 1946, and the second run was between May of 1947 and August of 1947. On December 15, 1947, the Houston was decommissioned and put on reserve status for the next ten years. On March 1, 1959, the Houston was removed from the Naval Vessel Register and, in June of 1961, it was sold 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.