The USS Saipan is the lead ship of two small aircraft carriers. She was built in Camden, New Jersey and was launched for the first time in July of 1946. From that period until 1953 she would mainly work in the Western Atlantic Ocean and the Caribbean Sea on training duty, routine operations, and development duties.
She was the main ship for conducting carrier qualifications for the VF-17A, the Navy’s jet fighter squadron, in May of 1948. She was also sent to the country of Venezuela in February of 1948 on a diplomatic mission. She also went up to Greenland on a rescue mission that same year.
In late 1953 the Saipan was sent to the Pacific Ocean to serve in the 7th Fleet. One of the main missions she had during this period was the delivery of aircraft to the French forces in Indo-China in 1954. After she completed the Far Eastern cruise in May she would go back to the East Coast of the United States via the Suez Canal, completing a steaming around the world. For three more years the Saipan would serve in Pensacola, Florida as a training carrier. In October of 1954 and a year after that she would serve in hurricane relief for Haiti and Mexico.
The Saipan was decommissioned in October of 1957. However, she would be redesignated as a transport for aircraft in May of 1959. She would stay in mothballs during this period until March of 1963. That is when she started her conversion into a command ship. She was redesignated yet again in January of 1964, but that was short lived as she was changed again into a major communications relay ship.
She was still in the shipyard when renamed the USS Arlington in 1965. That was a name that she kept until she was scrapped in June of 1976, bringing an end to her career. During her career she was a ship that would wear many different hats, even if she never saw action.
Asbestos in Navy Ships
Although an essential component of the naval fleet, even today, aircraft carriers 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.