USS Juneau CL-52 (1940-1942)
USS Juneau was commissioned on February 14, 1942. She was an Atlanta-class light cruiser laid down on May 27, 1940 by the Federal Shipping Company of Kearny, New Jersey. She was sponsored by the Juneau, Alaska mayor’s wife, Mrs. Harry I. Lucas. She was launched on October 25, 1941, in command by Captain Lyman K. Swenson. On August 22, the cruiser departed to Pacific Theater
Action in World War II
On September 10, 1942 Juneau meet up with Task Force 18. On September 15, the Juneau and other destroyers recovered 1,910 crew members of the Wasp when it was sunk by a Japanese submarine went down. On September 16, the Juneau took those soldiers to Espiritu Santo, New Hebrides. The next day the Juneau, operating with the Hornet group, supported three enemy repulsion actions at Guadalcanal.
The cruiser’s first major battle was at Santa Cruz Island. Juneau and other ships offered a strong attack which took out about 20 enemy planes. The next day, Hornet sank due to extensive damage. Juneau then joined the Enterprise, sinking 18 more Japanese planes and helping stop four enemy assaults.
Departing Nouméa, New Caledonia on November 8, Juneau accompanied other ships to Guadalcanal. On November 12, Juneau took her place to offer cover for cargo ships, providing a protective screen. On November 13, Japan attacked the group with 30 planes. Later that day, Juneau was hit with an enemy torpedo, causing extensive damage that ultimately forced her to leave the battle. Juneau and two other ships, Helena and San Francisco, left for Espiritu Santo to be repaired.
While heading for open waters, two torpedoes were cast from a submarine. One torpedo missed, but the second one hit Juneau in the same place she had been damaged before. These injuries caused the cruiser to sink in just 20 seconds, leaving just 100 of the crew alive. Without stopping to retrieve them, Helena and San Francisco moved on, fearing being sunk by the same Japanese submarine.
For eight days the 100 men were left to take care of themselves in the open water. Due to the weather conditions and shark attacks, only 10 of the 100 managed to survive while awaiting air rescue.
Juneau was awarded four battle stars for her World War II service.
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.