USS Waccamaw AO-109 (1946-1975)
The AO-109, also known as USS Waccamaw, was named for the Waccamaw River. This ship was a part of the U. S. Navy as a replenishment oiler. The Waccamaw had a beginning capacity of 146,000 barrels. This ship was put down on April 28th, 1945 in Chester Pennsylvania by the Drydock Company and Sun Shipbuilding; on March 30th, 1946 it was launched; Ms. Irene Long sponsored it; Captain Guy W. Stringer commanded Waccamaw, which was commissioned on June 25th, 1946.
Service Around the World
Following completion of training and shakedown at Guantanamo and Norfolk, Virginia, for her first two years, the Waccamaw transported oil to the U.S. from the Persian Gulf. The ship was given an assignment for duty in the Mediterranean with the 6th fleet on September 1948 and in 1949, the Waccamaw was transferred to the second fleet to complete exercises in the Caribbean. A second tour to the Mediterranean came after in the beginning portion of 1950 and also a third tour in 1951 which lasted for nine months.Following a Boston, Massachusetts, shipyard overhaul in 1952, the ship joined in the creation of the method known as the Thompson Arwood method used for putting fuel into destroyers during time of inclement weather at sea. The Waccamaw journeyed on its first midshipman cruise in 1953, which also included a trip to Edinburgh, Scotland. The Waccamaw traveled to the Mediterranean on its fourth tour in 1954 with the sixth Fleet. Next, the ship was involved in logistic services in the Caribbean and western Atlantic. The Waccamaw went on its 2nd midshipman cruise in 1955 where it visited Edinburg, Scotland, and Copenhagen Denmark. The Waccamaw accessed the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard in the fall of 1955 for overhaul and departed for the Caribbean to complete training the next spring. On June and July of 1956, the ship went on its 3rd midshipman cruise with the trip this time going to Halifax, Nova Scotia. The ship left for its fifth assignment as the end of July to the sixth Fleet. This particular tour was stretched out until January 1957 because of the crisis in Suez. During this time, the ship supplied logistic support to ships that were a part of the Haifa, Israel evacuation. The Waccamaw worked in the Caribbean for 2 months following its return from the Mediterranean and on June 12th and 13th 1957, it joined in at Norfolk, Virginia with the International Naval Review and left for its 4th midshipman cruise to Aruba, the Dutch West Indies, Brazil, and Rio de Janeiro. After an overhaul in later years, the Waccamaw rejoined the Atlantic Fleet and performed various NATO exercises until the 1970’s.
On February 1975, she was decommissioned and in 2005 she was struck from the Naval register.
Asbestos in Navy Ships
Although an essential component of the naval fleet, some oilers 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.