USS Laertes AR-20 (1944-1972)

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Originally named the SS Dutiful, the USS Laertes was laid down by the Bethlehem-Fairfield Shipyard in August of 1944 and launched one month later. The ship was sponsored by Mrs. F.A.R. McNab. The renaming of the ship came about when she was converted into a repair ship by the Maryland Drydock Company in Baltimore. She was later commissioned as the USS Laertes in March of 1945. The commander of the ship was Commander Leslie H. Hawkins.

Service in the Far East

Before entering the Pacific, the Laertes underwent testing in Norfolk, Virginia. The ship then headed to the Eniwetok Atoll, where she spent considerable time repairing ships that were damaged during some of the final battles of World War II. In October, the Laertes left Eniwetok and sailed to Okinawa but spent only little time there before heading back to the United States in December. From December of 1945 to mid-April of 1946, the Laertes spent time as a preinactivation repair ship and after that moved to San Diego in order to carry out similar duties.

In January of 1947, the ship was decommissioned and entered the Pacific Reserve Fleet.
In December of 1951, the ship received another commission in order to participate in the Korean War. She operated out of San Diego as a part of the unit Service Force until 1952, when she left for the Far East. The ship first made a stop at Pearl Harbor on the way to her final destination of Sasebo, Japan, where the ship carried out orders with Service Squadron 3. The Laertes spent approximately five months in service in the Far East participating in duties such as servicing ships of the United States Seventh Fleet at Sasebo and Pusan, Korea.

After the War

The ship left Sasebo at the beginning of 1953 and was involved in a multiple cruises off the shore of California and Hawaii before returning to San Diego in December of 1953. She was once again decommissioned in February of 1954 and again entered the Pacific Reserve Fleet. During active duty the USS Laertes was awarded two battle stars for her service during the Korean War. The ship was later sold to Zidell Explorations, Inc. in July of 1972 for scrap parts.

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.


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