Ordered February, 13, 1929, and launched May 25, 1932, the USS Portland, was built in Quincy Massachusetts, and commissioned on February 17, 1933. The 9,800 ton heavy cruiser was the first of only two in its class. Armed with 9 eight inch 55 cal. guns, 8 five inch 25 cal. Guns, and 8 fifty inch 12.7 mm machine guns, the warship carried four float plains, and two catapults.
On April 4th 1933, the Portland raced from Gravesend Bay, New York to the aid of the downed Akron airship. First to arrive on the scene, it searched in vain for survivors. In October 1935, when President Roosevelt embarked on his famous voyage from San Diego, through the Panama Canal to Charleston, aboard the USS Huston, the Portland escorted it through the voyage.
Action in World War II
On the 7th of December 1941, when Pearl Harbor was attacked, the USS Portland was at sea in the Pacific with the USS Lexington task force. It accompanied that carrier on the Wake Island relief expedition, in response to the surprise attack. From March through June of 1942, it escorted the Yorktown, and fought in the battles of the Coral Sea and Midway, before becoming involved in the Guadalcanal campaign. It had heavy involvement in the battle of the Eastern Solomons and the battle of Santa Cruz by October of 1942. On November 13th, the Portland was torpedoed in the stern, during a surface battle near Guadalcanal and had to be towed to Australia for repairs.
In May of 1943, the Portland returned to active service as part of the Aleutians campaign until September. For the following six months it became a member of an armada which captured bases in Gilbert and Marshall Islands, and raided the Japanese in the central Pacific and New Guinea, after which it required a west coast overhaul in the summer of 1944. In September it participated in the Palaus Landings, and later the Leyte invasion and the Battle of Surigao Strait. It remained in the Philippines until March of ’45, when the Portland traveled north to provide support in Okinawa.
On September 2nd, 1945, the Japanese naval and air base at Truk surrendered on the very decks of the USS Portland. The surrender coincided with the formal surrender at Tokyo Bay. The Portland then served to transport American troops from Hawaii to the east coast in the fall of 1945. In 1959, the Portland 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.