The USS Macon was a Baltimore-class heavy cruiser first launched on October 15th, 1944. It was commissioned with Captain Edward Pare in command on August 26th, 1945.
From 1946 through 1950, the Macon served as a test ship for the operational development force. It periodically received experimental equipment at the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard. It tested this equipment while serving as an anti-aircraft gunnery school ship. In 1948, the Macon participated in a midshipmen summer cruise to Europe. Its experimental duties continued until April 12th, 1950 when it was decommissioned and put into reserve.
Action in the Korean War
The Macon was ordered reactivated in June 1950 due to the Korean conflict. With Captain Victor Long in command, it was re-commissioned October 16th, 1950. After completing refresher training, it became the flagship of Cruiser Division 6 in the Atlantic.
During the Suez Crisis in 1956, it patrolled the eastern Mediterranean. It took part in the International Naval Review celebrating the 350th anniversary of the foundation of Jamestown on June 12th, 1957. In September 1957, the Macon participated in the NATO operation “Strikeback” conducted in the North Sea and Arctic Ocean. It conducted six midshipmen summer cruises and spent nearly every fall and winter with the 6th Fleet by the end of 1959.
During this time it continued to receive experimental equipment. On May 8th, 1956, while anchored off the North Carolina coast, it launched the first Regulus missile from an Atlantic Fleet cruiser. It continued tests of the missile while completing its cycle of Atlantic Fleet operations.
While traveling from Cartagena to Marseille in January 1959, the Macon was diverted from its course to aid a burning Italian merchant ship Maria Amata. Though the Macon’s crew fought the flames, the ship was soon beyond salvaging. The Macon carried the merchantman’s crew to Valencia, Spain.
In January 1960, the Macon departed Norfolk for a goodwill cruise to South American ports, carrying the U.S. Navy Band. While en route to perform at a state dinner, six members of the band died in a plane crash. The Macon’s crew held memorial services in Buenos Aires Harbor on February 28th. This goodwill cruise was completed on March 10th at Rio de Janeiro. It then returned to Boston to resume its duties with the Atlantic Fleet.
The USS Macon was once again decommissioned and placed in reserve March 10th, 1961. It was struck November 1st, 1969 and scrapped on July 5th, 1973.
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.