The USS Sphinx (ARL-24) was a repair ship built for the U.S. Navy during World War II. Originally she was an LST-963 but was later made to serve as a landing craft repair ship in September of 1944 and received her commission on May 10, 1945.
Service in World War II, Korea, and Vietnam
On June 12, she would make her way west to join the Pacific Fleet in Hawaii. The Sphinx served as a repair craft at Pearl Harbor from July 31 until the August 27, when she would be moved to Adak, Alaska. However, while en route to Adak, she was sent to Japan in support of operations in the east. The Sphinx also supported operations in the Mutsu Bay, Yokosuka, and Saipan before returning to Pearl Harbor in January 1947.
With the outbreak of the Korean War, the Sphinx would once again be called upon to serve as a repair vessel in the Far East. On August 17, 1951 she left Pearl Harbor on her way to Japan. In September she arrived at Yokosuka where she repaired and serviced the fleet units that were on their way to the Korean Conflict. She remained in Yokosuka until May of 1952. After arriving back in California the Sphinx continued operations along the west coast until she was redeployed from March to December of 1954. On January 31, 1956, she was placed out of commission and into reserve.
During the Vietnam War, the Sphinx was reactivated in 1967. On June 6, 1968, she made a solo trip on her way to Vietnam and four days later she arrived at Vung Tau, South Vietnam. Assigned to the Mobile Riverine Force in the Mekong Delta, her unit was Task Force (TF) 117. TF 117 was made up of over 150 river assault boats and 11 shallow draft ships. The Sphinx was a non-rotating ship so she was constantly at work repairing damaged river boats. In addition to her repair duties the Sphinx also took on helicopter capabilities.
She remained in the Far East, taking several trips into Vietnam, before finally leaving late in 1971. She was place out of commission in September 1971 and stricken from the Naval Vessel Register in April 1977. She was taken to New York for preservation as a museum ship in 2002, but the museum ran out of funds five years later and the USS Sphinx was sold for scrap. She received one battle star for her service in the Korean War and eight for the Vietnam War.
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.