The USS Mauna Kea was built by Bethlehem Sparrows Point Shipyard Incorporated of Sparrows Point, Maryland. This ammunition ship was commissioned on March 30, 1957. Her displacement was 9,540 tons, and she had a length of 502′. Her beam was 72′ with a draft of 29′. Her top speed was 21 knots. Her commander was Captain Kenneth Loveland, and she had a complement of 349 officers and enlisted men.
Service in the Pacific
Her first deployment was with ServRon 1 in the East Pacific to service the vessels of the First Fleet. November of 1957 had her making preparations for deployment to the Western Pacific. There she worked as a part of ServRon3 at Sasebo, Japan, to distribute ammunition, food, and oil to the 7th Fleet.
On February 28, 1965, she was ordered to report to the Lockheed Shipbuilding and Construction Company in Seattle, Washington. Once there she was put in reserve status and began overhaul into a Fast Automatic Shuttle Transfer System. She was also given a helipad. With a minor setback because of strikes and unavailable materials, the updates were finally completed.
The Mauna Kea was then sent for an intensive re-training and extensive shakedown exercises. With her reformation entirely completed, she was then ordered to report to the Pacific Fleet. This deployment sent her back to the West Pacific for another tour of duty. This tour lasted for a short while, and then the ship received orders to report to Subic Bay. On 9 January 1967 she arrived at Subic Bay, and joined SevRon7.
The group then proceeded to Vietnam to serve a tour of duty that lasted 6 months. The Mauna Kea was largely responsible for rearming the vessels in Yankee Station. Once these duties were completed, she then set sail for a tour of duty at Yokosuka, Japan. She arrived in July and did a short term of service there. After a short leave in California, the Mauna Kea was deployed for a second tour of duty in Vietnam. She returned home for upkeep and maintenance, and then served with the 7th Fleet until her decommission.
On June 30, 1995, the USS Mauna Kea was officially decommissioned and struck from the Navy register the next year. Two years later, she was transferred to the Maritime Administration and kept at California in the National Defense Reserve Fleet before being sunk as a target in 2006.
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.