The USS Wrangell (AE-12) was constructed by an organization known as the North Carolina Shipbuilding Company headquartered in Wilmington, North Carolina, in February 1944. It was under a Maritime Commission contract, or MC hull 1375. During that time, it was called SS Midnight. It was launched on April 14 of the same year through the sponsorship of Mrs. Cambell. By May 28, 1944, it was handed over to the Navy at Hampton Roads for conversion into an ammunition ship. The Norfolk Shipbuilding and Drydock Co. made its modifications and converted it into a mount hood-class ammunition ship. The Wrangell was finally commissioned through the command of Commander Haskell C. Todd on October 10, 1944. The commission ceremony took place at the Norfolk Navy Yard.
The first task performed by the Wrangell was to load ammunition leaving the Hampton Roads on November 13, for Earle, New Jersey, to the Naval Ammunition Depot there. On November 31, she headed for the Panama Canal. She was then rerouted to Hawaii on December 7 instead of the Marshall Islands. On December 21, the Wrangell reached the Pearl Harbor and then sailed to the Marshalls on December 24.
The ship joined a convoy that was bound to Ulithi on the last day of the year. She supported the fleet’s planning and implementation of operations against the islands of Iwo Jima, Okinawa, and Japan. She sent 10 thousand tons of ammunitions to different ships in the said duration of time. Within the 5 months also, she sailed to and from Ulithi, Okinawa, Marianas, and Saipan transporting ammunition and working and supporting Task Groups (TG) 58.8, 50.8, and 30.8; Task Force (TF) 58; and Task Unit (TU) 50.8.6.
After serving during the war, she completed other tasks in the Philippines and returned home, passing through Pearl Harbor and Panama. She was consistent in sending ammunition and supplies to Earle, New Jersey. She was placed under reserve in Orange, Texas, on May 17, 1946, and was decommissioned on November 19 of the same year.
At outbreaks of wars and battles in other areas from 1951 to 1970, she was again selected and sent out to perform tasks. The Wrangell became part of many battles and has been awarded before it was finally decommissioned on December 21, 1970, back home at Norfolk and became part of the Reserve Fleet.
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 to detect possible health consequences associated with asbestos exposure.