The USS Onslow, a small seaplane tender of the Barnegat class, was built in Houghton, Washington and commissioned in December of 1943. Because of a contract peculiarity, this vessel and nine others were constructed before nine lower-numbered vessels.
Action in World War II
The Onslow was sent from the West Coast in 1944, heading into the Western Pacific. She would then land 160 soldiers onto a small island in the Marshalls to help get rid it of the Japanese resistance. She even repelled the attack of a Japanese bomber that was trying to sink her. She spent six weeks in Kwajalein, helping with aircraft tending before going to Saipan for the invasion there. While off of Saipan, one of her planes was boarded by Japanese swimmers. Although the crew of the plane was saved and the swimmers were killed, the plane was lost.
The USS Onslow then headed to the Palau Islands, helping tend seaplanes there. Her anchorage was attacked while she was at anchor there by three Japanese midget submarines. She would manage to sink one of the submarines, but the other two escaped. Along with three other AVP’s and three larger seaplane tenders, she joined the large invasion force against Okinawa in March. There the tenders set up a seadrome for 60 PBM seaplanes. She would remain on station here until the end of the war with Japan, then joining the occupation force and remaining until January of 1947. She was decommissioned in June of 1947.
Action in the Korean War
With the Korean conflict breaking, she was reactivated and between 1951 and 1955, undertaking four deployments into the region. Much of this time saw her in Japan, where she tended to planes and established a navy air station. She would have another Western Pacific deployment in 1956, which lasted until 1957. The Onslow would then be decommissioned in April of 1960 for the last time and would be sold to the Philippine President Lines for service as a ferry. She would be hired by the U.S. Navy in 1975 to help evacuate the civilians of South Vietnam.
Asbestos in Navy Ships
Although an essential component of the naval fleet, tenders 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.