The Manatee (AO-58) was constructed by the Bethlehem Sparrows Point Shipyard. The ship was prepared and ready by April 1944, with Commander Joseph B. Smyth in control. The ship left Chesapeake Bay and traveled to the Dutch West Indies. With her tanks filled with oil, she was ready to refill the fleet in Eniwetok.
Service in World War II and Korea
While the United States was carrying out attacks against Japan, the Manatee was sent to join other supply vessels that were on hand to assist the attack ships. The oilers resupplied the battleships near the enemy at night and planned efficiently to ensure the ships were constantly filled with fuel. The Manatee was ordered for Ulithi through San Pedro once the conflicts had ended and reached her destination on October 7, 1945. The vessel left the coast and was sent to the Far East; she made the return journey to the West Coast toward the end of November and was there to supply ships during the planned maneuvers.
The oiler was busy and made several trips from the Persian Gulf to Tokyo and then journeyed to Hawaii. The following year, the Manatee left for her destination in the Persian Gulf. Her next trip was to Japan, and then her orders were for Norfolk. The ship was placed on transport duty between Aruba, Argentina, and New Jersey. The Manatee was sent to Long Beach and made several tours traveling between Sasebo and the Persian Gulf. The oiler was then docked and serviced to become a Military Sea Transportation Service vessel. She was put on duty to make trips moving supplies and troops between Norfolk and the Dutch West Indies.
The ship was sent back to Long Beach and converted back to an oiler. She was put to work resupplying vessels during the Korean conflict. She was sent into Japanese waters to start her refueling duty and was sent to assist the Taiwan Straits Patrol. The oiler was next ordered back to refuel the Navy’s vessels that were located near the Korean coast. During the next few years, the Manatee was working in the western Pacific and near the west coast. Due to her reliability she was used in a demonstration and was there to support operations during the Vietnam War.
The Manatee was awarded eight battle stars for her assistance during World War II and six for her efforts in Korea. She was decommissioned in July 1973 and struck from the naval register in August. She, like many former Navy ships, was sold for scrap to Zidell Exploration of Portland, Oregon.
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 to detect possible health consequences associated with asbestos exposure.