Commissioned in January 1942, USS San Diego was a 6,000-ton Atlanta class light cruiser, built in Quincy, Massachusetts. She arrived in the Hawaiian Islands in May and operated with the USS Hornet during June and July before steaming to the south Pacific in August.
Action in World War II
She spent the next six months providing protection for U.S. carriers during the effort to hold Guadalcanal. On September 15, she was present when a Japanese submarine sank the USS Wasp. On October 26, during the Battle for the Santa Cruz Islands, San Diego screened for USS Hornet. She operated with USS Enterprise throughout the Naval Battle of Guadalcanal, which lasted three days.
As the island-hopping campaign moved to the Solomons in 1943, San Diego continued in her role as a carrier escort. When the Japanese base at Rabaul, New Britain was attacked by planes from USS Princeton and USS Saratoga, she provided anti-aircraft cover. Moving to the Marshall Islands in December, San Diego accompanied U.S. carriers in their raids.
While part of Task Force 58, San Diego contributed to the effort to seize bases in the Marshalls. Also during this January-March timeframe, she assisted in delivering a serious blow to the Japanese Naval base at Truk. She then sailed to San Francisco for a short period in the shipyard for repairs.
She returned to the war zone in June to take part in the assault on the Mariana Islands. San Diego joined a task force that included USS Langley, USS Essex and USS Cowpens for the Battle of the Philippine Sea on June 19 and 20. Through the end of 1944, she accompanied the carrier task forces as they pushed the war into the western Pacific. This included the taking, in September, of some of the Palau Islands as well as establishing a Leyte beachhead in October.
1945 saw San Diego taking part in several major operations. From January through March, she supported the invasions of Luzon, Iwo Jima and the Ryukyus. She served as flagship of a task force which liberated Allied POW’s and she participated in Operation “Magic Carpet” following the war, helping to transport servicemen stateside.
San Diego was decommissioned on November 4, 1946. In March 1949, she was redesignated CLAA-53. Ten years later, she was stricken from the Navy list, and sold for scrapping the following the year.
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.