The USNS David C. Shanks was a transport ship categorized in the George W. Goethals-class. The ship weighed approximately 10,556 tons and by 1940 was operating as a passenger cargo for the United States Line. The ship was later converted to a troopship in 1941. Later in that year, she was purchased by the Army. The ship was not at the correct weight proportions when launched and to compensate for this, the outer casing of the funnel was not fitted which left a smaller smokestack compared to the rest of the ships.
Service in World War II
Newly named as the USAT David C. Shanks, the ship arrived off the coast of San Francisco in the summer of 1943. During the remainder of the Second World War, the USAT David C. Shanks was used as a support boat in the Southwest Pacific and surrounding Pacific islands. Two years later, in the summer of 1945, the ship returned to the United States on the Atlantic coast. For the next year the ship served as a transport for troops from the Philippines to San Francisco.
After the War
At the beginning of 1946, the David C. Shanks underwent a conversion to a combination troop and dependent carrier. Again, from 1947 to mid 1948, the ship was refurbished with peacetime service in mind. Changes to the ship included restoration to many missing pieces and the addition of numerous portholes for passengers.
In 1950, the ship was transferred to the Navy’s Military Sea Transportation Service along with most of the other large ships that were utilized during the Second World War With this transfer, she became the USNS David C. Shanks. She was later transferred from Seattle, Washington to San Francisco where she was used to transport personnel from Fort Mason to various locations throughout the Pacific basin. Frequent trips were made to Honolulu, Manila, Guam, and Kqajalein. Cruises were also made to Alaska, Japan, and Taiwan, among other places. The last voyage of the David C. Shanks was in September of 1959, where it traveled to Los Angeles and then back to San Francisco in October of the same year. The ship was then decommissioned to a reserve fleet and permanently deactivated in November of 1960. She was later sold for parts in 1973 in Taiwan.
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 in order to detect possible health consequences associated with asbestos exposure.