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USS Kearsarge (CV-33)

​USS Kearsarge (CV-33)

The USS Kearsarge (CV-33) was an Essex-class aircraft carrier serving the US Navy from 1946 until 1970. She was commissioned in March of 1946 under the command of Captain Francis J. McKenna. Kearsarge was named for the Civil War-era Kearsarge, a Mohican-class "sloop-of-war" that served between 1861 and 1894.


A "long-hull" Essex-class carrier, the Kearsarge was a product of the New York Naval Shipyard in Brooklyn, laid down in March 1944 and launched in May 1945. At the time she was launched, the vessel measured 888 feet in length and 93 feet across the beam at the waterline. Her four steam turbines were manufactured by Westinghouse, and the eight boilers were from Babcock & Wilcox. Crew compliment was 3,448 officers and seamen, and she could carry up to 100 prop-driven aircraft as built.

Repairs and Upgrades

Kearsarge's first major yard period began in June 1950 at the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard. For the next twenty months, she underwent an SCB-27-A modernization, an overhaul that equipped the carrier to land and recover the new jet fighters that were rapidly replacing obsolete prop-driven aircraft.

In 1956, Kearsarge was fitted with an enclosed "hurricane" bow and an angled flight deck. This was known officially as an SCB-125 Modernization.

Wartime Service

Kearsarge was delivered to NS Norfolk in April 1946. For the next year, her crew trained along the East Coast and the Caribbean. Her first overseas deployment was a midshipmen's training cruise to the UK during the summer of 1947.

After ten months of operations out of her home port, Kearsarge departed for her first Mediterranean deployment in July 1948. Upon her return to the States in October, her home port was shifted to Quonset Point, Rhode Island. She remained stationed there, conducting routine missions along the Atlantic seaboard and the Caribbean until January 1950, when she was ordered to the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard in Bremerton, Washington for modernization. During that yard period, Kearsarge served as the set for a scene in the film The Caine Mutiny.

In February 1952, Kearsarge was recommissioned. After a six-month shakedown cruise, she proceeded to Pearl Harbor for flight training, then reported for combat duty with Task Force 77 in Yokosuka. After a five-month combat tour of Korea, she returned to San Diego. She returned to Korea the following summer for peacekeeping duties following the fragile truce that continues to this day (the Korean War has never been officially "over"). Kearsarge continued to make annual deployments to the Far East for the next three years.

In 1956, Kearsarge returned to drydock for upgrades and refits. In 1958, Kearsarge underwent additional refits as part of her conversion for anti-submarine warfare. She sailed for the Far East for a tour of duty with the 7th Fleet in September 1959. In the early fall, a major typhoon struck the coast of Japan; Kearsarge and her crew were instrumental in providing humanitarian relief to the victims.

On her way home, Kearsarge rescued four Soviet seamen who had been adrift for seven weeks – a highly symbolic gesture, given the state of Cold War tensions at the time.

For a twelve-month period starting in March 1960, Kearsarge's crew underwent extensive training prior to the vessel's next deployment, which took her to Southeast Asia during an attempted coup in Laos. She returned to the States in November and reported to the Puget Sound Naval Yard for further modernization. Following these refits, she was reassigned to Long Beach, California.

In 1962 and 1963, Kearsarge participated in the space program, acting as the recovery vessel for two Project Mercury capsules.

Over the remainder of the decade, Kearsarge was deployed to Vietnam three times. By the late 1960s, the Navy determined that with the new generation of "supercarriers," the aging Kearsarge was obsolete. She was decommissioned in February 1973 and sold for scrap a year later.

Asbestos Risk on the USS Kearsarge (CV-33)

Kearsarge contained large amounts of asbestos insulation and other materials. Battle damage, accidents and weather -related damage heightened the risk of exposure by loosening these materials and causing them to become friable. During a Far East deployment in 1953, Kearsarge collided with three different ships within a brief period; one of these was the passenger liner SS Oriana, which later became a hotel ship until it was damaged in a 2004 typhoon.

Despite the fact that all branches of the service made use of asbestos-containing products in all sorts of locations and vehicles, asbestos exposure was much more pervasive on ships and in drydock, and so doctors find far more mesothelioma navy cases than in other divisions of the military. Ships like Kearsarge made use of asbestos insulation frequently, especially in ship's boilers and engine rooms, and to insulate compartments throughout the vessel. The damage done by asbestos fibers happens when microscopic fibers are breathed in or swallowed; the fibers invade the lungs and mesothelium and occasionally other organs, causing scarring in the case of pleural plaques and damage at the cellular level in the case of mesothelioma.

Even with modern medical help, the survival rate of mesothelioma victims is almost zero - but palliative treatments like radiation for mesothelioma provide some hope and often extend survival time. If you or a loved one has contracted peritoneal or pleural mesothelioma, you have legal options available to you. Choosing a good mesothelioma lawyer can help decide your course of action. Trustworthy information about malignant mesothelioma isn't easy to find, so we have written a mesothelioma information packet with complete information on your legal options and treatment choices, along with a list of open clinical trials nationwide. Simply complete the form on this page and we'll mail you your free package.

Author: Linda Molinari

Editor in Chief, Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance

Linda Molinari


Friedman, Norman. United States Aircraft Carriers: An Illustrated Design History (Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, 1983)

Mooney, James. Dictionary of American Fighting Ships. (Washington DC; Department of the Navy, 1991).