In May 1939, the USS Saint Louis was commissioned. The ship was one of two built in Newport News, Virginia to be a light steam cruiser at only 10,000 tons. Its first assignment was on the Neutrality Patrol in the waters of the West Indies and Atlantic. This lasted from October 1939 until the ship was reassigned to the Pacific region in November 1940.
Action in World War II
During its assignment in 1941, in the west coast waters of Hawaii, the Saint Louis only made one trip as far as the Philippines. After the Pearl Harbor attacks, the ship’s main duties were to accompany fleets from various points along the west coast to Hawaiian waters. Also, the Saint Louis made one voyage to Midway Island and two others to the South Pacific.
The USS Saint Louis was reassigned for a short time to patrol the waters around Alaska. This lasted from May 1942 until October of that same year. While under this patrol, the ship bombed Japanese occupied Kiska Island in August 1942. The next transfer for the Saint Louis was to the South Pacific just before 1943.
The ship aided in the last efforts of the Guadalcanal Campaign and contributed during the beginning of the Central Solomons attack by bombing and patrolling efforts to halt enemy resupply. After the ship’s bow was torpedoed during the Battle of Kolombangara on July 13, 1943, it was forced to get repairs in California.
Once repairs to the USS Saint Louis were completed, the ship was once again sent to the South Pacific to aid in the Bougainville Campaign from November 1943 until May of 1944. The cruiser sustained a second dose of damage from enemy bombs on Valentine’s Day in 1944 in the Green Island Landing. After transferring to an assignment further north in June of the same year, the ship supported efforts in the capture of the Mariana Islands.
The Saint Louis took on a massive amount of damage on November 27, 1944 when rammed by a kamikaze pilot, sending it back to California to be repaired again. After returning to battle, the Saint Louis offered protection for ground troops in Okinawa and continued its escorting duties. The Saint Louis took on various assignments from 1945 until June 1946. Decommissioned and about to be sold for scrap in 1980, the Saint Louis sank in transit to Taiwan.
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.