The USS San Juan, a 6,000-ton Atlanta-class light cruiser, was built in Quincy, Massachusetts and commissioned at the end of February 1942. She had shakedown in the Western Atlantic before being sent to the Pacific Ocean to join the Pacific Fleet in the war against Japan.
Action in World War II
She arrived in the Pacific in time to start participating in the campaign to reclaim Guadalcanal. The cruiser provided fire support from her guns when the Marines landed on Tulagi and Guadalcanal, then serving mainly as an escort for aircraft carriers. In October she took part in raiding Japan’s shipping around the Gilbert Islands and helped in the screen for the Santa Cruz Islands. During the latter part of this period, she was struck by a Japanese bomb, requiring repairs in Australia.
During the remainder of 1942 and most of 1943, the San Juan aided in the support of the carrier operations in the South Pacific. She also accompanied the USS Saratoga during the strikes at Bougainville and Rabaul. She also helped cover the Gilbert Island invasion and the carrier raid into the Marshalls.
The San Juan was then sent to the West Coast for an overhaul. Upon returning, the San Juan joined the attacks on the Marshall Islands in support of the invasion from January to February 1944. She served with the carriers in the Marianas operation and participated in the Battle of the Philippine Sea as well.
The San Juan would again require shipyard repairs, which lasted from August until October of 1944. She then reentered the war until the end, serving as an escort for aircraft carriers that took part in strikes on Iwo Jima, Luzon, and Okinawa. She even helped with raids on the Japanese home islands. With the war ending, the San Juan aided in the recovery of Allied POWs, bringing the U.S. servicemen home as part of Operation “Magic Carpet,” from1945 into 1946.
After the war
The San Juan was decommissioned in November 1946, getting redesignated the CLAA-54 while remaining in mothballs. In March of 1959, she was stricken from the Navy list. She eventually met the same fate as most naval vessels from this period and was sold for scrapping in October of 1961.
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.