USS Union AKA-106 (1945-1970)
The USS Union (AKA-106) served as a commissioned ship in the US Navy from 25 April 1945 to 5 June 1970. Converted to a Tolland-class attack cargo ship in 1947 from a commercial cargo ship built in 1944 named the North Carolina, the USS Union was awarded two battle stars for her Korean service, and nine battle stars for her service in Vietnam.
Her first overseas cargo and troop transport duty was in the western Pacific from August through December 1945; she was sent again in the first half of 1946, and again for the first half of 1947. However, the last half of 1947, all of 1948, and most of 1949 saw the ship in the northern Pacific, making three re-supply expeditions from the US Pacific coast to Point Barrow, Alaska.
Service in the Korean War
After the Korean War began on 25 June 1950, the USS Union travelled across the Pacific in July to Japan and Korea, returning to San Diego in November 1950. In 1951, the USS Union made several resupply trips to islands in the Bering Sea and from September 1951 through July 1952, the USS Union was again assigned to the western Pacific.
After the Korean War
On July 27, 1953, a truce concluded the war in Korea. The USS Union took part in POW transport from July until December. A sixth deployment to the western Pacific spanned from October 1954 through June 1955. January 1956 included an exercise in the Aleutians; the rest of the year was for local operations and for overhaul.
It wasn’t until August 1957 that the USS Union headed west again, carrying troops and cargo through February 1958, and again, from July through November 1959, and, once more, from August through December 1960.
1961 saw another re-supply expedition to Alaska, landing exercises in Hawaii, and station keeping in Hong Kong. The last half of 1962 involved a trip through the Panama Canal to take part in the Cuban quarantine. Early 1963 saw the USS Union back in Japan for the 24th annual Black Ship Festival at Shimoda.
Service in the Vietnam War
November 1964 was the start of another western Pacific stint, through early 1965, before beginning Vietnam duty from April through November 1965, once more July 1966 through February 1967, again from February 1968 through September 1968, and again, from August through November 1969, before returning to San Diego in December 1969.
The USS Union was placed in reserve, out of commission, on 5 June 1970. The ship was sold for scrap in September 1977.
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.