USS Merapi AF-38 (1945-1960)
The USS Merapi AF-38, an Adria-class stores ship, provided service in World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War. Stores ships, used by the United States as far back as the War of 1812, store supplies such as dried, frozen or chilled provisions as well as propulsion and aviation fuel.
Service in World War II, Korea, and Vietnam
The Merapi was launched on October 4, 1944, and commissioned by the U.S. Navy on March 21, 1945. During World War II, the ship sailed from Pearl Harbor to Okinawa to unload supplies. Her second trip took her to Eniwetok Atoll, a region of the Marshall Islands occupied by the United States. After the war, the Merapi stayed in the area to support occupation forces from the China coast.
During the Korean War, the Merapi not only brought supplies but also was involved in conflict off the Pusan Perimeter, assisted in the Wonsan and Inchon invasions, and provided for evacuated troops from Hungnam. In 1953, she was stationed back at Pearl Harbor, but soon deployed to Midway Island as conflict heated up in Vietnam. She participated in Operation Passage to Freedom in September, October and November of 1954, providing food and supplies to ships that were evacuating civilians and troops.
After the War
When nuclear testing began in the Bikini and Enitowek atolls, the Merapi was there supporting Operation Redwing, which oversaw a series of 17 detonations over two months in 1956, including the first drop of a hydrogen bomb. After a goodwill cruise to Australia in April of 1957, the stores ship supported more nuclear tests under the name of Operation Hardtack.
After sailing around the world and serving the United States through three wars, the USS Merapi was decommissioned on January 16, 1959. The ship was struck from the Navy record on July 1, 1960, and sold and converted to a fish factory ship in 1966. She received a total of six battle stars: one for service in World War II and five for service in the Korean War. She was also awarded the Korean Presidential Unit Citation two times.
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.