The USS Kaskaskia (AO-27) was a 7,400 ton Cimarron class fleet replenishment oiler, built at Newport News, Virginia, and commissioned October 22, 1940. She was named for the Kaskaskia River in Illinois.
Service in World War II and Korea
The Kaskaskia arrived at Pearl Harbor January 3, 1941. She made six trips transporting oil between the West Coast and Hawaii, and one run to Johnston Island before pulling in at Mare Island on September 10 for repairs and overhaul. On January 6, 1942, the oiler conducted refueling operations en route to Pago Pago. With Noumea as a base the she spent six months refueling at sea before steaming to Alaska with a cargo of oil and aviation fuel, returning to Noumea in late March 1943.
Following repairs stateside, the Kaskaskia sailed for Hawaii, again making runs between there and California and one short run to the Gilbert Islands. Next she moved to the Marshalls, departing Hawaii on January 16, 1944. There she supported the carrier task forces, following them to the Marianas. She operated there through June and July. In September the ship joined a task group headed for Peleliu. Returning to Manus in October, she then steamed for Leyte fueling the fleet until the beachhead was established.
Back in the states, she underwent overhaul, and then departed in February 1945 for Kwajalein. Her next duty was fueling the fleet off Okinawa. Relieved of that responsibility, she joined the carriers that were launching raids on the Japanese home land. She continued fueling operations for a year, arriving in San Pedro on September 28, 1946. The next three years were spent hauling oil from the West Coast to bases in the Pacific and Far East.
At the outbreak of the Korean conflict, the Kaskaskia was sent to Japan. With Sasebo as base, the ship conducted fueling operations. She returned to Long Beach on August 27, 1950, for overhaul. Her next tour in Korea lasted from January to July 1952. She was sent to the Far East again in 1954.
After the War
On April 8, 1955, she was placed out of commission and in reserve. Transferred to MSTS in January 1957, she sailed for a time with a Navy crew but was again decommissioned in December. The Kaskaskia was reactivated during the Berlin Crisis in 1961. Other notable events include participating in Project Mercury and the blockade against Cuba in 1962. She made two Mediterranean deployments in 1963 and 1965. The ship won nine Battle Stars for World War II and seven for Korea. She was decommissioned for the last time in December 1969.
Asbestos in Navy Ships
Although an essential component of the naval fleet, some tankers and oilers 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.