USS Bataan (CVL-29)
The USS Bataan(CVL-29) was an Independence-class aircraft carrier serving in the United States Navy during the Second World War, Korea and the early years of the Cold War. She was named for the Philippine province where American and Filipino soldiers fought the Japanese in early 1942.
As American involvement in World War II became increasing imminent during the late summer and early fall of 1941, then-President Franklin D. Roosevelt was informed that no new aircraft carriers were scheduled for launch until 1944. After the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor seriously crippled the U.S. Pacific Fleet, Roosevelt and his naval staff realized that fighting an enemy across the world's largest ocean required aircraft carriers. Several cruisers already under construction at the time were re-designed and built as small aircraft carriers.
Officially designated as a "light aircraft carrier" (displacing under 11,000 tons), the USS Bataan was just over 622 feet in length with a standard beam of over 71 feet, increasing to 109 feet over the flight deck. She was powered by steam turbines putting out 100,000 horsepower and carried a compliment of 24 fighter planes and 9 torpedo planes. She was originally laid down as light cruiser to be named Buffalo by the New York Shipbuilding Corporation of Camden, New Jersey. Reclassified as a carrier in June 1942, the vessel was launched just over a year later and commissioned on 17 November 1943 under the command of Captain V.H. Schaeffer.
Repairs and Upgrades
Aircraft carriers are complex vessels and require a great deal of regular maintenance and repairs. Bataan underwent at least two major overhauls during her period of service. One of these took place at the Puget Sound Naval Base in Bremerton, Washington between July and November of 1951.
Bataan underwent a second overhaul in San Diego in May 1953, preliminary to being decommissioned.
Following her initial shakedown trials, Bataan was ordered to the Pacific. Her baptism by fire came during an attack on Japanese positions on Jayapura, New Guinea (known as "Hollandia" at the time) during the last week of April. This was followed immediately by combat action off the Mortlock Islands of Chuuk (formerly Truk), where the Japanese Empire maintained a major naval operations base.
Less than six weeks later, Bataan's crew and pilots were in combat once again at Saipan on the Marianas Islands. The month of June was a busy one for Bataan as her men took part in both Bonins raids and the Battle of the Philippine Sea. After two months of heavy combat, Bataan returned to the U.S. for repairs and maintenance, which lasted several months.
Bataan returned to action in March of 1945 for the initial raids on Okinawa, which lasted until the end of May. Her crew's most notable achievement during this combat deployment was the sinking of the INJ Yamato, the largest and most heavily armed battleship of the war, on 7 April. After spending June in the Philippines, Bataan joined the 3rd Fleet for the last push against the Japanese homeland; however, the Japanese Empire capitulated before the invasion of the home islands was to start.
The Bataan returned to the port of New York City briefly in October 1945 before being assigned to Operation Magic Carpet, during which U.S. military personnel were transported home for overseas. The duty was brief; Bataan was decommissioned and put on reserve status at Philadelphia in January 1946.
The carrier was reactivated in May 1950, just weeks before the outbreak of the Korean War. Stopping in San Diego to take on materiel and men of the newly-formed U.S. Air Force, Bataan continued on to the Far East. Between December 1950 and June 1951, naval pilots aboard Bataan flew support missions for ground forces on the Korean peninsula. Based out of the Naval Base at Yokosuka, Japan between combat deployments and engaging in training drills out of Buckner Bay, Okinawa, Bataan remained in the Far East for most of the Korean War; she made a single voyage home to San Diego between early August and late October of 1952.
Bataan departed the combat zone in May of 1953 and was decommissioned in April 1954. She remained on reserve until September 1959. Less than two years later, the carrier was sold for scrap to the Nicolai Joffee Corporation of Beverly Hills.
Asbestos Risk on the USS Bataan (CVL-29)
Any vessel built between the mid-1930s and the early 1980s is likely to have asbestos insulation throughout the structure in addition to the asbestos gaskets and insulation material used in the engine room. In addition, aircraft carriers stored large quantities of explosive ordnance and volatile aviation fuel, and these storage compartments were also heavily fireproofed with asbestos. Unfortunately, when asbestos-containing materials are disturbed or damaged, they can emit asbestos fibers into the air which people then inhale. The inhalation of asbestos fibers is the primary cause of malignant mesothelioma, a deadly form of cancer.
Tragically for the heroic men and women who served aboard or worked on the Bataan, the mesothelioma survival rate is very low. However, there are treatment options that can have some impact on survival time, including mesothelioma surgery (in which large sections of the tissue surround the lungs are removed), treatment by radiation for mesothelioma, and mesothelioma chemotherapy (similar to the chemotherapy deployed against more conventional types of cancer.)
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Francis, Timothy. "Bataan I."
http://www.history.navy.mil/danfs/b3/bataan-i.htm Updated 27 February 2006. Retrieved 29 November 2010.
Friedman, Norman. U.S. Aircraft Carriers: An Illustrated Design History (Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, 1983)