The USS Wisconsin (BB-64) is an Iowa class battleship. Built with a displacement of 45,000 tons at the Philadelphia Navy Yard in Pennsylvania, the vessel was commissioned in April 1944. Following the testing of her systems in the Caribbean, the USS Wisconsin joined the Pacific Fleet in October of that same year and entered the western Pacific theater of combat that December.
Action in World War II
In the nine months that followed, the Wisconsin participated in operations to regain the Philippines, Iwo Jima and Okinawa, as well as conducting a raid on the Japanese islands. At this time, she encountered two typhoons without incurring damage, still being able to use her sixteen-inch guns to bomb enemy targets in Okinawa and Japan.
After the War
Peacetime saw the Wisconsin undertake routine operations, where she cruised to South America in late 1946 and also visited Europe in mid-1947. She made one tour during the Korean War from November 1951 to April 1952, where she carried the distinction of serving as the flagship of the Seventh Fleet and was responsible for extensively shelling along the North Korean coast. The battleship made another cruise, again as the Seventh Fleet’s flagship, from 1953 to 1954.
After that she was also instrumental in many training cruises, bringing midshipmen to European and South American waters during the 1950s and also taking part in several exercises.
As the Navy’s last active battleship, the Wisconsin was decommissioned the first time in March 1958, though she was mothballed (put on reserve status) for thirty years until she was recommissioned in October 1988 for the final days that President Reagan pursued expansion of the navy.
When Iraq invaded Kuwait in August 1990, she was brought back into action in the Persian Gulf area in just a few weeks time. As a result, the Wisconsin was stationed in the Gulf when “Operation Desert Storm” combat operations began in mid-January 1991, where her mission during the short war involved firing missiles at targets in Iraq and using her guns to force the enemy out of Kuwait. With the Mid-east war coming to an end, in addition to the major defense spending cuts accompanying the end of the Cold War, the USS Wisconsin was decommissioned for a second and final time in September 1991.
Asbestos in Navy Ships
Although an essential component of the naval fleet throughout conflicts during the last century, battleships also posed a lasting health risk to soldiers who served on them. Unfortunately, products containing asbestos were common on these 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.