The USS Sanborn was a Haskell class attack transport that carried up to 1,500 combat troops and their equipment including landing craft, patrol boats, and small submarines. The naval vessel was built in Washington in 1944, launched in August and commissioned in October.
Action in World War II
After training in San Pedro and San Diego, California, the vessel traveled to Honolulu in December. She and her crew arrived in February 1945 at Saipan in the Mariana Islands to join pre-invasion drills before attacking Iwo Jima. That assault resulted in a loss of ten boats and all officers in the landing party. After carrying wounded soldiers to hospitals in the Mariana Islands, the ship assisted in Operation Iceberg, also called the Battle of Okinawa, at the Ryukyu Islands near Japan. The United States Navy suffered a large number of casualties as a result of Japanese kamikaze planes.
In March, the vessel sailed with other ships to Okinawa and returned to Saipan in April. She transported landing boats and other vessels to Tulagi in the Solomon Islands and Noumea in New Caledonia before returning to Saipan. Her next assignment was to pick up troops in San Francisco and take them to Batangas, Luzon, in the Philippines. At the end of the war, the transport carried occupation troops to Japan and brought home soldiers from the Pacific Ocean and Alaska in Operation Magic Carpet. Eight million military personnel were returned to the United States thanks to 370 naval ships.
Service in the Atlantic
The Sanborn was decommissioned in August 1946 and placed on reserve in Stockton, California. The vessel was recommissioned in San Diego in January 1951 and completed training and drills off the California coast. The next three years included landing exercises in Puerto Rico and North Carolina. In addition to these exercises, the vessel transported SeaBees for construction projects in Rhode Island, Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, Morocco, and Casablanca in May 1953.
In July 1954 the transport began landing exercises in the East Coast and Caribbean. The ship traveled to Italy, Greece, Turkey, Crete, France, Spain, and Sardinia starting in January 1955 for five months of landing exercises. In 1956, while in port at Norfolk, Virginia, the vessel starred in the Universal Pictures war movie “Away All Boats” portraying the USS Belinda.
The USS Sanborn was decommissioned in May 1956 and placed in reserve in Orange, Texas. Her name was struck from the Naval register in 1960 and she was sold for scrap metal in 1971.
Asbestos in Navy Ships
Although an essential component of the naval fleet, some auxiliary vessels also posed 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.