USS Idaho BB-42 (1919-1946)
The USS Idaho is a 32,000-ton New Mexico class battleship that was built in Camden, New Jersey. She was commissioned in March 1919 and steamed to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in July. She transited the Panama Canal to the Pacific, where she was based for twelve years. During that time, the Idaho took part in the Battle Fleet’s routine of drills and exercises, which extended from the Caribbean to Hawaii and as far south as Chile. She also cruised to Alaska in 1920 and to New Zealand and Australia in 1925. In September 1931, she entered the Norfolk Navy Yard for extensive reconstruction.
In October 1934 she emerged from the shipyard transformed. She no longer bore the “cage” masts that were such a distinguishing feature of American battleships of her era. Instead she bore a tower superstructure supporting up-to-date gunfire controls. As one of the Battle Fleet’s most modern units, the Idaho returned to the Pacific in 1935 to take up her peacetime work of preparing for possible combat.
Action in World War II
In June 1941, Idaho was transferred to the Atlantic Fleet to assist during World War II. Based in Iceland the rest of that year, she helped cover convoys against German raiders. After the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, the Idaho was sent to the Pacific, arriving in January 1942. For the next year, she operated along the U.S. west coast and the Hawaiian area. In April 1943, she went to the Aleutians, supporting the landings at Attu in May and Kiska in August.
The Idaho joined the drive across the Central Pacific, taking part in the Makin landing in November 1943, the Kwajalain invasion in February 1944, a bombardment of New Ireland in March, the Marianas operation in June and July, and the assault on the Palaus in September. Overhauled, she returned to the combat zone to provide heavy gunfire for the February 1945 invasion of Iwo Jima. The Idaho’s 14″ guns were again actively bombarding Okinawa from late March into May 1945. While off Okinawa, she was damaged by a “Kamikaze” on April 12, but returned after brief repairs.
After the War
The Idaho prepared for the invasion of Japan in August 1945. She was present in Tokyo Bay when Japan surrendered on September 2, and arrived in Norfolk, Virginia in mid-October. Inactive from then on, the Idaho was decommissioned in July 1946 and sold to a scrapper in November 1947.
Asbestos in Navy Ships
Although an essential component of the naval fleet throughout conflicts during the last century, battleships also posed a lasting health risk to soldiers who served on them. Unfortunately, products containing asbestos were common on these 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.