The USS Vincennes was a New Orleans-class heavy cruiser built in Quincy, Massachusetts. She was commissioned in 1937, having her shakedown cruise in April of the same year to Northern European waters. In 1938, she steamed into the Pacific Ocean via the Panama Canal.
Once in the Pacific, she participated in the Fleet Problem XIX and other exercises, returning to the Atlantic in June of 1939. After the outbreak of World War II, the ship made patrols to ensure that the U.S. position of neutrality. In 1940, she even brought a shipment of gold into the U.S. from Morocco. 1941 saw the cruiser take part in combat exercises in the Caribbean, more neutrality patrols, a gold shipment from South Africa and escort duties for convoys in the North and South Atlantic.
Action in World War II
In March of 1942, with the U.S. now in the war, the Vincennes was sent to the Pacific theater. She acted as an escort to the USS Hornet and was present when she launched the Doolittle Raid against targets on Japan. She continued with the carrier force as it sailed south to take part in the Battle of Coral Sea. She returned to Pearl Harbor in late May, then participating in the Battle of Midway. During Midway, she acted as the screen for the USS Yorktown, although she would be disabled by Japanese plane attacks.
After repairs and tactical exercises in Hawaii, in mid-July she returned to the South Pacific to help with the invasion of Guadalcanal and the southern Solomon Island of Tulagi. She was present during the invasion landings in August 1942, shelling targets on shore and providing protection against Japanese planes. The morning of August 9 saw the Vincennes patrolling Tulagi with her sister ships, Astoria CA-34 and Quincy CA-39. Unfortunately, the group of ships was attacked with heavy gun fire and torpedoes from a Japanese cruiser force, decimating the vessels. All three cruisers sank to the bottom of the area that was eventually known as “Iron Bottom Sound.”
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.