Commissioned in 1931 by the United States Navy, the USS Louisville was built at the Puget Sound Navy Yard in Bremerton, Washington. Although it was originally a light cruiser tagged CA-28, that title changed to CL-28 once it was relabeled as a heavy cruiser.
The Louisville spent many of its early years performing independent missions in the Pacific and the Caribbean, traveling also to and from Latin America. Its duties were numerous before the start of World War II and included a South American cruise and transporting British gold to the U.S. at the commencement of the European War in 1939.
Action in World War II
Once the United States made its entrance into the World War, the Louisville’s role changed. Starting in December of 1941, its prime duty was guiding ships from the East Indies to the island of Hawaii in the Pacific. It had a role in several aircraft carrier raids while on its duties, and spent a marked period of time in 1942 to participate in the conclusion of the Guadalcanal campaign. During an air raid in 1943, it was hit by a dud torpedo but was able to tow the helpless USS Chicago until a tugboat arrived.
The Louisville returned to the Aleutians, an area close to Alaska it had frequented in mid-1942, during the recapture of the islands Attu and Kiska. It was then overhauled at the Mare Island Navy Yard and started a new role of supplying heavy gunfire support, a role it resumed later in 1944 at Tinian, Saipan, and Guam, as well as Pelelie and Leyte. It was also a part of the Battle of Suriagao Strait when the Japanese Army attempted to respond to the Leyte landing.
In 1945 it was hit by several Japanese suicide planes but managed to support further battles in Leyte at the Lingayen Gulf. Shortly after, it was pulled back for repair but was back in action in time for the Okinawa campaign, where it suffered another suicide bomber strike in June.
After the War
At the conclusion of the war in the Pacific, the Louisville did some work along the coast of China. In 1946, it was officially called back and decommissioned in Philadelphia. It was retained by the Reserve Fleet and finally scrapped in September of 1959.
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.