USS Memphis CL-13 (1925-1947)

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The Memphis was a 7050-ton Omaha class light cruiser of the United States Navy. The fourth naval ship named after the city of Memphis, Tennessee, it was built by William Cramp and Sons in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and commissioned in February of 1925 with Captain Henry E. Lackey as the commanding officer.

After being commissioned, the Memphis went on a shakedown cruise to the Caribbean, and then traveled to the Pacific to assist the Battle Fleet on its voyage to Australia and New Zealand. This included participation in the dedication of a memorial gateway to Commodore Oliver Perry at Port of Spain, Trinidad. Later that year, the Memphis returned to the Atlantic, serving as the flagship of United States Naval Forces in Europe until 1927. In June of that year, it also transported aviator Charles Lindbergh back to the U.S. after his historic trans-Atlantic flight. In January of 1928, the Memphis took part in an escort of President Calvin Coolidge to the West Indies.

For the next two decades the Memphis operated along the Atlantic and Caribbean coastlines, and occasionally traversed into the Pacific. In April of 1941, the vessel was transferred to the South Atlantic, where it protected American waters from the growing threat of Germany during the birth pangs of World War II.

Action in World War II

The Memphis supported airfield construction, safeguarded French forces in the West Indies, scoured for German blockade runners, and ushered diplomats. These duties included the escort of two Army transports in a convoy to Ascension Island, searching for blockade runners off Bahia and Brazil, and acting as the naval flagship for dignitaries such as President Franklin D. Roosevelt, Admiral Harold R. Stark, Fleet Admiral Ernest J. King, and General George C. Marshall.

After the War

During the last months of the war, the Memphis patrolled the Mediterranean and served as a regional flagship for the allies. It remained there to help with the post-war effort until November of 1945, when it set off for Philadelphia Pennsylvania to be decommissioned and removed from the official Navy list. It was sold for scrapping in January of 1947.

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.

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