The USS Pittsburgh was built at the Fore River Shipyard in Quincy, Massachusetts. It was commissioned in October 1944 and underwent shakedown in the Atlantic. In January 1945, it transited the Panama Canal to join the Pacific Fleet in the war against Japan.
Action in World War II
A 13,000-ton Baltimore Class heavy cruiser, the Pittsburgh first saw action in mid-February, supporting aircraft carrier operations against the Japanese main islands. It took part in the invasion of Iwo Jima in March while continuing to participate in strikes against the home islands. When a carrier, the USS Franklin, suffered extensive bombing damage on March 19, 1945, the Pittsburgh towed it to safer waters out of the reach of enemy forces.
In late March, 1945, the Pittsburgh served as a carrier escort during the invasion of Okinawa. This campaign extended into June, and on June 4, a typhoon struck the fleet. The Pittsburgh was battling high winds and treacherous seas on June 5 when its bow broke off just forward of the number one eight-inch gun turret. Outstanding damage control measures by the crew kept the ship afloat, and in a display of extraordinary seamanship it continued on, steaming to Guam where it underwent temporary repairs. Afterward, the ship travelled to the Puget Sound Navy Yard, where the missing bow was replaced. That work was completed in 1946 and the Pittsburgh was assigned to the reserve fleet. It was formally decommissioned in 1947.
Action in the Korean War
The Pittsburgh was re-commissioned in September 1951 to serve in the Korean conflict. A member of the Atlantic Fleet, it was deployed to the Mediterranean in 1952 and again in 1953. During the second cruise, it also visited the Indian Ocean. It toured the Mediterranean and Indian Ocean in 1954, following extensive modernization work.
Returning to the Pacific, the Pittsburgh cruised the Far East from November 1954 to February 1955. It participated in operations off the West Coast of the United States until August 1956 when it was decommissioned at Bremerton, Washington. The Pittsburgh remained in the reserve fleet until July 1973, when it was officially stricken from the Naval register. The next year it was sold for scrap.
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.