The USS Montpelier was a 10,000 ton Cleveland-class cruiser, one of 26 of that type. It was constructed by the New York Shipbuilding Corporation in Camden, New Jersey on December 2nd, 1940. The Montpelier was launched on February 12th, 1942, and shortly thereafter commissioned under the command of Captain Leighton Wood on September 9, 1942.
Action in World War II
The Montpelier was initially ordered to Noumea, New Caledonia on January 18th, 1943, chosen by Rear Admiral A. S. Merrill as the flagship of Cruiser Division 12. While in that division, it participated in the Battle of Rennell Island as part of the Guadalcanal Campaign on January 29th, 1943.
Later, the Montpelier was assigned to cover the landings on the Russell Islands on February 21st. It also assisted in the bombardment of Poporang Island on June 29th, accompanied by three other cruisers. The next month, from July 11th to the 12th, it bombarded Munda, allowing allied forces to continue in their conquest of New Georgia. Following this assignment, it remained in the area for several months on patrol duties.
The Montpelier was reassigned to Sydney, Australia, where it served as the flagship of Task Force 39 for the invasion of the Bougainville Islands. On November 1st, 1942, the Task Force engaged a superior Japanese force in the Battle of Empress Augusta Bay, resulting in a clear victory.
In February of 1944, the Montpelier assisted in the amphibious assault on the Green Islands. Later that year in March, it was present at the Mariana Islands invasion. It also was assigned to bombardment duties at Saipan, Tinian, and Guam. After finishing its work in the Marianas, it left on August 2nd, 1944 for overhaul at the Mare Island Navy Yard in California. In the last month of 1944 and the following months of 1945, it used its guns to cover landings at Mindoro, Luzon, Corregidor, Palawan, Mindanao, and Borneo.
After the War
After hostilities by Japan ceased in mid 1945, the Montpelier helped speed the evacuation of Allied prisoners from Japan. In January of 1947, it was decommissioned in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania after a brief service in the Atlantic Fleet. After being decommissioned, it was placed in the reserve fleet, where it resided for more than ten years before being sold for scrap in January of 1960.
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.