The USS Mount McKinley, an amphibious command ship, traveled the globe during its 32 years of service, serving as a floating command post for General Douglas MacArthur during a turning point in the Korean War and as the flagship for nuclear bomb testing in the Pacific. The ship displaced 12,550 tons and was 459 feet, 2 inches long, with a top speed of 15 knots. Its crew numbered 664. Its armament consisted of a .38-caliber gun and eight 40 mm guns.
Action in World War II, Korea, and Vietnam
The Mount McKinley was initially christened the Cyclone and was to serve as a transport. But soon after her launch in 1943, the ship was renamed and became a command ship. The vessel first saw action in the invasion of Peleliu Island in the Pacific in 1944 and then participated in the invasion of the Philippine Islands. Next, the ship journeyed to the Kerama Islands, near Okinawa, and oversaw the landing of the 77th Infantry Division in the days leading up to the invasion of Okinawa. Immediately after the war, the ship helped land occupation forces in Japan.
In 1946, the Mount McKinley traveled to Bikini Atoll in the Pacific, where she served as the flagship for the Operation Crossroads series of atomic weapons tests. That role continued in 1948 for the atomic bomb test at the island of Eniwetok.
When the Korean War broke out in 1950, the Mount McKinley was quickly called into action, guiding the landing of U.S. forces at Po Han. In fall 1950, General MacArthur came aboard to direct the landing of American troops at Inchon, a crucial victory in the war. The ship went on to serve in several tours in the Korean conflict.
In 1955, the Mount McKinley returned to nuclear testing duties, acting as flagship for the underwater atomic bomb test known as Operation Wigwam. The rest of the decade saw the ship make several deployments to the Mediterranean Sea, taking part in NATO and U.S. exercises.
Once again participating in history, the Mount McKinley was the flagship for ComPhibLant and ComPhIbGru 4 in the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962. She also participated in the Vietnam War, making several deployments in the mid-1960s and supplying communications support for search-and-destroy operations.
The vessel was struck from the naval record in 1976 and sold for scrap 3 years later. During her service life, the Mount McKinley was awarded 12 battle stars—four for World War II and eight for Korea—and a Vietnam Meritorious Unit Citation.
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 to detect possible health consequences associated with asbestos exposure.