The USS Saratoga was originally a battle cruiser, the Saratoga CC-3, and was converted to a 33,000 ton aircraft carrier during construction at Camden, New Jersey. The second ship in the Navy’s initial pair of fully capable aircraft carriers, the Saratoga was commissioned in 1927. Prior to World War II, the Saratoga was used for training aviators and developing carrier techniques.
Action in World War II
On December 7, 1941, when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, the Saratoga participated in the Wake Island relief expedition in the Pacific. On January 11, 1942, the Saratoga was on its way to rendezvous with the USS Enterprise, 500 miles southwest of Hawaii, when a torpedo from a Japanese submarine struck it, causing damage requiring months of repairs. The vessel made it to Oahu under its own power, although six men were killed and some flooding occurred. During repairs, its original twin 8″ gun mounts, which were useless against aircraft, were replaced with twin 5″/38 mounts and a wider forward flight deck. The 8″ guns were later used for shore defense in Hawaii.
In June 1942, the Saratoga returned to duty, joining the USS Enterprise near Midway, bringing aircrafts to replace those lost during the Battle of Midway. After completing its mission in Midway in August 1942, the Saratoga provided support during the Guadalcanal Operations and the Battle of Eastern Solomons. On August 31, 1942, it was hit by a Japanese torpedo, requiring two months of repairs.
In December 1942, after the completion of repairs, the carrier headed to the South Pacific war zone. The Saratoga stayed in the region for the next year. In November 1943, its planes performed devastating raids on Rabaul’s Japanese base, and also supported the Gilberts Operation later that month. January and February 1944 saw the Saratoga participating in the invasion of the Marshall Islands. In April and May 1944, it aided the British Eastern Fleet in the Indian Ocean, participating in raids on Japanese positions in the East Indies.
In February 1945, the Saratoga delivered night fighters to Iwo Jima. On February 21 of that year, Kamikaze planes hit the Saratoga causing serious damages requiring more repairs.
The Saratoga returned to duty in May, 1945, again as a training vessel, until Japan’s surrender. Starting in September of 1945, it was used to transport troops to the U.S. from the Pacific in Operation “Magic Carpet.” The USS Saratoga’s final mission in July, 1946 was target duty for atomic bomb tests in the Marshall Islands. The carrier sank on July 25, 1946 in the waters of Bikini Atoll and is still visited by divers.
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.