The USS Tombigbee (AOG-11) was a tanker used by the Navy to move fuel to ships and distant posts. The military considered this duty a dangerous one. The tanker was put in the hands of Lieutenant A.O. Askland and set sail on July 13th, 1944.
Service in World War II
The Tombigbee was assigned to Service Squadron 10, and her duty was to refill water tanks. She was sent to Guam and Ulithi to complete her assignment. The tanker was moored near the USS Mississinewa when that ship was attacked by a Japanese submarine.
On February 7, 1945, Saipan ordered the Tombigbee to join with Task Group 50.9, where she supplied water through February 19. Several days later, the tanker left the group and went to Iwo Jima. She was there to provide water to the fleet located in the area. The ships encountered dangerous sea conditions during the transfer, and the Tombigbee continued her duty as the need for water increased.
The tanker was sent to supply water for the ships located in Guam. On April 1, the Tombigbee was in place to transfer water when a Japanese kamikaze flew over the tanker and launched itself into a ship anchored nearby, the USS Hinsdale. The troops on board the Hinsdale were not able to abandon the ship.
The following day, she moved her position to Hagushi; this location was on the other side of the island. The tanker’s crew was subjected to many kamikaze fighters crashing into U.S. battleships. The Tombigbee was kept busy taking water to ships located in Kerama Retto, and when Japan surrendered, she was sent to Okinawa.
The tanker was awarded the Navy Occupation Service Medal for her assistance during the war. She was then ordered to supply the ships that were on duty involved in atomic bomb testing during 1946.
Service in the Korean War
The Tombigbee was sent to supply ships during the Korean War where she was put to use until 1953. The USS Tombigbee was sent to the Far East in 1962 and to Vietnam in 1966.
The Tombigbee was retired from the Navy and sent to the Greek Navy for service there. She was given a new name, Ariadni (A-414) for King Minas’s daughter. Intelligence from the Greek Naval service signified that the ship was decommissioned in 2003.
The USS Tombigbee was honored with two battle stars for her contributions during World War II.
Asbestos in Navy Ships
Although an essential component of the naval fleet, some tankers 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 to detect possible health consequences associated with asbestos exposure.