The USS Cowpens (CVL-25) was an Independence-class aircraft carrier serving in the US Navy. These were light carriers that were built on hulls intended for cruisers, and converted in order to meet the wartime emergency. Named for a battle of the American Revolution, the Cowpens was commissioned at the end of May, 1943 under the command of Captain R.P. McConnel.
Cowpens was constructed at the New York Shipbuilding Company in Camden, New Jersey. The keep was laid on 17 November 1941 and the completed vessel was launched in January 1943. The Independence- class carriers displaced 11,000 tons and measured just over 622 feet from bow to stern. Crew compliment consisted of 1,569 officers and seamen.
Repairs and Upgrades
Cowpens was initially ordered as a Fargo- class light cruiser. During the construction period, hull blisters were added to compensate for the additional topside weight and provide additional stability when it was decided to reconfigure her as a carrier. Regardless of size, aircraft carriers are complex vessels that require frequent repairs and maintenance. Cowpens underwent a short overhaul at Pearl Harbor during July of 1944 and a more extensive one in San Francisco between March and June of 1945. She was mothballed at Mare Island near San Francisco in December 1946, where she remained until sold to a shipbreaker in 1960.
Following her shakedown trials, Cowpens set out for Pearl Harbor in September 1943 to join with Task Force 14. Her trial by fire was during the invasion of Wake Island in October. Following a brief return to Pearl Harbor, she participated in air strikes against Japanese positions on Mille, Makin, Kwajalein and Wotje in the Marshall Islands during November and December of that year.
At the beginning of 1944, Cowpens joined Task Force 58 for the invasion of Kwajalein and Eniwetok. The following month, the vessel and her crew provided support for the invasion of the Marianas. During the island-hopping campaign that culminated in air strikes on the Japanese home islands, Cowpens took part in nearly every major operation.
In late August of 1944, Allied forces prepared to re-take the Philippines. Cowpens' aviators were tasked with hitting Japanese bases on Okinawa and Formosa as part of the preparations for the invasion.
1945 saw the beginning of the end of the war as US forces drew closer to Japan itself. Cowpens'pilots took part in raids on Okinawa, Iwo Jima and Tokyo itself. Ultimately, the carrier was part of the final raids on the Japanese mainland, during which several major cities were bombed. Cowpens became the first US carrier to enter Tokyo Bay following the surrender.
In the months following the end of the war, Cowpens was the base of operations for several reconnaissance missions, the purpose of which were to locate bases, track shipping and find POW camps. Beginning in November 1945, Cowpens served as a transport veterans during Operation Magic Carpet.
In December 1946, Cowpens was laid up at the Inactive Ship Facility on Mare Island northwest of San Francisco. Initially part of the active reserve fleet, she was decommissioned a year later, however. In May of 1959, the aging carrier was reclassified as an aircraft transport and given a new hull number of ATV-1. However, the Navy determined that it would not be cost effective to do the necessary refits and upgrades, and the vessel was disposed of the following year.
Asbestos Risk on the USS Cowpens (CVL-25)
Aside from the usual asbestos risks aboard aircraft carriers during routine missions, training accidents, battle damage and even weather damage can cause asbestos lagging and insulation to become friable, releasing fibers into the environment. In mid-December 1944, Cowpens was caught in Typhoon Cobra, or "Halsey's Typhoon" 300 miles east of the Philippine Islands, during which Cowpens lost several aircraft and sustained enough damage to require repairs at the naval base on Ulithi.
While all the military services deployed asbestos-containing products in various locations and vehicles, asbestos exposure was much more pervasive on ships and in drydock, and thus doctors find significantly more mesothelioma navy patients than in other divisions of the military. Ships like Cowpens made use of asbestos insulation frequently in ship's boilers and engine spaces, and to insulate steam pipes throughout the ship. After asbestos is inhaled or ingested, tiny fibers become lodged in the mesothelium, a narrow body of cells that surrounds and protects the heart, lungs, and stomach, and over time this infiltration causes malignant mesothelioma.
As of this writing, medical science has not developed a cure for mesothelioma. However, there are treatments that lengthen survival time and make patients more comfortable, such as mesothelioma chemotherapy. If you have been affected by malignant mesothelioma you may have legal options available and a professional mesothelioma lawyer can work with you to determine and appropriate course of action. Accurate information concerning mesothelioma isn't always easy to unearth, so to help we've published a mesothelioma information packet with information concerning your legal options and choices for medical treatment, and a list of mesothelioma clinics nationwide. All you have to do is fill out the form on this page and we'll send the packet to you at no cost.Sources
Mooney, James. Dictionary of American Fighting Ships. (Washington DC; Department of the Navy, 1991).