The USS Wasp was a 14,700 ton United States aircraft carrier. She was the only ship of her class in the US Navy. The USS Wasp had a maximum speed of 29.5 knots (about 34 mph) and a maximum range of 12,000 nautical miles. She was designed after the Yorktown class hull, but was reduced in size to meet with the allowed tonnage of aircraft carriers under United States treaties of that time. The Wasp was ordered in September 1935 and launched in April of 1939. She was constructed in Quincy, Massachusetts, and commissioned at the Army Quartermaster Base, South Boston, Massachusetts.
Action in World War II
The USS Wasp was deployed in the Atlantic in the exercise Neutrality Enforcement prior to the American involvement to World War II. After the United States entered World War II she was deployed in the Atlantic and Mediterranean where she was essential in providing air support to wrest air superiority from the Germans.
After a series of defeats in the South Pacific the United States forces were reduced to three carriers on the Pacific front. In July 1942 the USS Wasp was redeployed to the South Pacific with two Cruisers and six Destroyers. In the beginning of August 1942 after escorting three transport ships, the USS Wasp provided air support to the invasion of Guadalcanal. She was successful in destroying Guadalcanal’s air support and shore battery guns without any loss of planes. The Wasp remained deployed in the South Pacific until it sank in Battle of the Santa Cruz Islands.
Destruction in Santa Cruz
On 15 September 1942, while escorting transport carriers, the Japanese submarine I-19 torpedoed the USS Wasp. This caused gasoline fires to break out on the hanger and below decks. Massive damage to the water mains prevented any ability to control the fires, and Captain Sherman ordered his crew to abandon ship less than an hour after being torpedoed. The ship was successfully evacuated but 193 men were lost in the attack. The USS Lansdowne was ordered to finish the destruction of the ship and stand by until it went fully under. After firing five torpedoes to facilitate sinking the carrier the USS Lansdowne reported the Wasp sinking at 21:00.
Asbestos in Navy Ships
Although an essential component of the naval fleet, even today, aircraft carriers 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.