The USS James O’Hara (APA-90) was built by Seattle-Tacoma Shipbuilding Corporation and commissioned to serve the army as a transport vessel in December 1942. The ship was named for a famous officer who served as Quartermaster General in the US Army. During World War II, the ship was converted into a Frederick Funston-class attack transport to fight for the US Navy.
Service in World War II
On April 26, 1943, Commander Charles Allen took command and the ship left Virginia to join the 8th Fleet travelling the Mediterranean Sea in preparation for the invasion of Sicily. Her first mission was named Operation Husky and carried the 45th Infantry Division to Scoglitti, a small fishing village on the south coast of Sicily. The ship was attacked both from the sea and air but managed to offload the troops who went on to wrest the island from the Axis powers.
After shuttling troops from North Africa to Sicily, the James O’Hara was then assigned to the Southern Attack Force that raided Salerno, located in southwestern Italy, on September 9 and successfully secured it. The ship was responsible for carrying the troops and cargo to the Paestrum beaches and even assisted another ship that went over a German mine.
The ship took part in several other operations including the Invasion of Saipan carrying the 4th Marine Division; the Invasion of the Palaus, debarking the assault group that attacked the Anguar Island in Philippines; the Invasion of Leyte, offloading assault troops of the Northern Attack Force and unloading combat cargo that weighed 476 tons; the Invasion of Luzon, where it carried the 6th Infantry Division that went on to liberate Luzon; and the Invasion of Iwo Jima, carrying the 3rd Marine Division for an attack on Iwo Jima and then transporting more than 400 wounded soldiers to Guam.
After the War
After World War II, the James O’Hara was decommissioned before being handed over to the US Army. She was reassigned to the Navy in 1950 and transported troops and cargo from the West Coast to the Far East during the Korean War to fight communist oppression. Finally, in 1960, the ship was docked and berthed for the last time at Puget Sound. She was transferred to the Maritime Administration before being struck from the Naval Register in 1961 and scrapped in 1968. For her service in World War II, she was awarded seven battle stars, and for Korea she was awarded one.
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.