USS Mazama AE-9 (1944-1970)
The USS Mazama was named for Mount Mazama, the location of Crater Lake in Oregon. The ship was fashioned as an ammunitions vessel by the Tampa Shipbuilding Company of Tampa, Florida. Her official commission took place on March 10, 1944. She started her war service on May 6 with Commander P V R Harris at the helm.
Service in World War II
Her first tour of duty was in the Pacific. She arrived at Majuro on June 4 to receive and distribute ammunition to the vessels in the area. Soon after, she was redeployed to Saipan to rearm the 5th Fleet there. By August 24, she was back at her home port in San Francisco, California for the purpose of replenishing her supplies and a brief layover for the crew.
Once replenished, the Mazama was off to combat once again. On October 9 she dropped anchor at Manus to make ready for the liberation of the Philippines. October 23 found the Mazama in Leyte Gulf, rearming the 7th and 3rd Fleets. By November 1 she was heading for Kossol Roads and Ulithi Atoll. There, she was an eyewitness to the attack on Kaitan. On December 1, the Mazama was off to Espiritu Santo. She was running low on munitions and supplies and needed to restock, but by January 5, 1945, she was back in Ulithi, fully restocked.
On January 12 an unknown object was spotted off of the starboard side of the vessel. A few minutes later an explosion occurred, and the Mazama began to take on water. The pumps were turned on to manage the damage. That day the ship lost one of her men, and seven others were seriously injured. She had to return to San Francisco for repairs, after which she spent the remainder of the war in San Pedro Bay.
After the War
After being present for Japan’s formal surrender and dropping her remaining cargo in the Philippines, the Mazama returned to the U.S. west coast, where she was decommissioned. In 1952, she was reactivated and assigned to the Service Force of the Atlantic Fleet, where she was deployed to the Mediterranean during the Suez Crisis. During the height of the Vietnam War, the ship was sent to Subic Bay to support operations of the 7th Fleet.
Upon returning from her final Vietnam deployment in 1970, the USS Mazama was once again decommissioned. Her fate after that is unknown, but for her service in World War II, she was awarded five battle stars.
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.