The USS Pensacola was built in New York and formally commissioned in February of 1930; the ship first made a shakedown cruise to Peru and Chile then began regular its regular assignment in the western Atlantic, Caribbean, and Pacific. The USS Pensacola’s classification was changed to heavy cruiser and the ship’s hull number was changed from CL-24 to CA-24. Its home base was moved from Norfolk, Virginia, to San Diego, California, in January 1935 and it mostly served in the Pacific.
Action in World War II
During the attack on Pearl Harbor, the Pensacola was providing gun support to a convoy that was promptly redirected to Australia. Following patrols in the vicinity of Samoa, the cruiser escorted the carriers Lexington and Yorktown during their operations in the southern Pacific from February into April 1942.
From August to December 1942, it operated in support of the Guadalcanal campaign, mainly serving with aircraft carriers. It was present during the Battle of the Santa Cruz Islands in late October and the Naval Battle of Guadalcanal in mid-November. At the end of November, the Pensacola was badly damaged by a torpedo in the Battle of Tassafaronga, losing over 120 of its crewmen.
The ship was undergoing an overhaul during most of 1943, but was able to participate in the Tarawa invasion. In 1944, it took part in the invasion of the Marshall Islands and performed with carrier striking forces during attacks in the Pacific. From May into August, it cruised in the north Pacific and attacked Japanese strongholds in the Kurile Islands. Maneuvering south, the Pensacola bombed Wake Island in September and Marcus in October, and then teamed with the Third Fleet’s carrier forces to take part in attacks on Formosa and in the Battle of Leyte Gulf.
After the War
The Pensacola’s last few months of active service were spent helping the occupation of northern Japan and transporting Pacific War veterans home as part of Operation “Magic Carpet”. In 1946, the Pensacola was assigned to target duty to support the atomic bomb tests at Bikini Atoll. During the month of July, the ship suffered two very severe hits and in 1948 was sunk as part of training off of the coast of Washington State.
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.