The USS Topeka was a 10,000 ton Cleveland-class light cruiser commissioned in December of 1944 in order to fight in the Pacific Theatre of World War II. Built in Quincy, Massachusetts, the Topeka reached the Pacific Ocean in April of 1945 after completing its initial testing and training in the Caribbean.
Action in World War II
Beginning in early June, the Topeka began operations with the rest of the Pacific Fleet as the United States continued to put increasing pressure on the Japanese. The Topeka performed a wide variety of tasks including war patrols for enemy shipping, naval bombardments of shoreline facilities, and defense operations to protect aircraft carriers from enemy attacks. With the Japanese surrender formally ending World War II, the Topeka returned home after a stop in Okinawa to pick up 500 servicemen for transport.
After the War
The Topeka returned to the area twice between the years of 1946 and 1948 for further patrols of the eastern Pacific. Among other places, the cruiser visited Japan, China, Guam, and the Philippines. After its second tour in the Pacific, the Topeka returned to the United States where it was formally decommissioned in June of 1949.
In 1957, the Topeka was converted into a guided missile cruiser and designated as the CLG-8. After being anchored in the New York Naval Shipyard for three years, the Topeka was re-commissioned in March of 1960. Equipped with “Terrier” anti-aircraft guided missiles and a new radar system, the Topeka was sent back to the Pacific for further war patrols of the region, including combat duty during the Vietnam War in 1965-1966.
After four cruises in the Pacific, the Topeka was sent to the Mediterranean in August of 1967. In order to accommodate its new area of patrol, the Topeka’s home base was transferred to Mayport, Florida. However, the Topeka was sent back to Boston, Massachusetts in 1969 where it was soon decommissioned. After being decommissioned, the Topeka was sent to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to join the reserve fleet for another four years. In March of 1975, the Topeka was sold for scrapping material.
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.