The USS Marblehead CL-12, an Omaha-class light cruiser, was the third Navy cruiser named in honor of the town of Marblehead, Massachusetts. Constructed by William Cramp & Sons at the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard in the summer of 1920, the ship was launched in the fall of 1923 and sponsored by Mrs. Joseph Evans. When the Marblehead was commissioned the following year, Captain Chauncey Shackford was in command.
Marblehead completed its shakedown in the Mediterranean Sea and the English Channel, also visiting the waters around Australia and the Samoan and Galapagos Islands. Following a peace-keeping mission to Nicaragua in 1927, Marblehead headed to Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, then joining the Richmond and Trenton on a voyage to Shanghai, China. She contributed to the peacekeeping mission in that region throughout the summer of 1927 during the Chinese civil war.
Between 1928 and 1938, Marblehead saw action as part of both the Atlantic and the Pacific Fleets. In early 1938, her new home port became the Philippine Islands as part of the Asiatic fleet as tensions increased in that part of the globe.
Action in World War II
Following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in December of 1941, Marblehead was involved in its most serious war-related action at the Battle of Makassar Strait. She suffered two direct hits and a third near miss during the intense fighting. During that battle she sustained severe underwater damage, along with 15 dead and more than 80 seriously injured crew members. Marblehead was able to make it to Tjilajap for initial repairs, but had to travel more than 9,000 miles in search of additional repairs. Following repairs in South Africa, she steamed toward New York City and was placed into dry dock by April of 1942.
Once rebuilt, she joined the South Atlantic Force in the war effort to participate in Operation Dragoon, the invasion of Southern France. Upon her return to America, she conducted a training academy for Naval Academy shipmen prior to ending up at the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard.
After the War
She was decommissioned in November of 1945. On November 28, 1945, the name Marblehead was struck from the Naval Vessel Register. Her ultimate fate was the scrapping of her hull in late February of 1946.
Marblehead was awarded two battle stars for her service throughout World War II.
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.