The USS Tuscaloosa, a 9,975-ton New Orleans-class heavy cruiser built in Camden, New Jersey, was commissioned on August 14, 1934. She then sailed down to Argentina and Uruguay for her shakedown cruise, receiving a post-shakedown overhaul after. In April 1935, she traveled to the Pacific where she spent the next four years with the Pacific Fleet. The Tuscaloosa left the Pacific and steamed to the Atlantic in January of 1939 for Fleet Problem XX. She then steamed around South America in April and June and then had the honor of carrying President Franklin D. Roosevelt for a cruise around New England and off the coast of Canada.
The outbreak of war in Europe forced the United States to start Neutrality Patrol operations in the Atlantic and the Tuscaloosa began patrolling in December of 1939. Her duties included shadowing of the German passenger liner, Columbus, later rescuing survivors of the ship after she was scuttled.
In 1940 and 1941 Tuscaloosa remained on patrol in the North Atlantic. In February and December 1940, Tuscaloosa hosted President Roosevelt twice on cruises to South America and the West Indies. Towards the end of 1940, the Tuscaloosa transported retired Admiral William D. Leahy, the newly appointed ambassador to France, to his new post. In 1941, relations with Germany slowly declined, forcing the heavy cruiser to participate in the Atlantic Charter conference in August and “short of war” operations in the North Atlantic.
Action in World War II
When the U.S. officially entered the war, the Tuscaloosa stayed in the area, joining the British Home Fleet from April to September of 1942 to participate in operations in the North Atlantic patrolling near the Soviet Union and Iceland.
Tuscaloosa sailed to Morocco in November 1942 for the invasion of North Africa, engaging the French fleet. She returned to the North Atlantic for convoy duty from 1943 to 1944. In June of 1944, her guns were used in the Normandy invasion, followed by the invasion of Southern France in August. The Tuscaloosa then participated in Iwo Jima invasion in February of 1945, followed by the Okinawa invasion from March to June 1945. She remained in the Pacific after the Japanese surrender, sailing off the coast of China and Korea.
After the war
In February of 1946, the cruiser sailed through the Panama Canal for the last time, ending her journey in the Philadelphia Naval Yard, where she was decommissioned. She was then stricken from the Navy list in March of 1959.
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.