The Shangri-la (CV-38) was an Essex-class aircraft carrier serving the United States Navy from World War II through Vietnam. A "long-hull" type, she was commissioned in September 1944 under the command of Captain J.D. Barner.
The Essex class represented the first "modern" aircraft carrier. At least one of these vessels, built in the early 1940s, continued in service with the Spanish Navy until 1991; until the arrival of "supercarriers" such as the Forrestal class and its successors, these carriers were the backbone of the fleet.
Shangri-la was laid down in January 1943 at the Norfolk Navy Yard and launched in February 1944. Nicknamed "Tokyo Express," she measured 888 feet in length and 148 feet across the flight deck. At the time of her commission, she displaced 27,100 tons. Her engine consisted of eight Babcock & Wilcox boilers (the company today is part of German conglomerate Siemens AG) and four Westinghouse geared steam turbines.
With a crew compliment of 3448 officers and seamen, Shangri-la could carry a maximum of 100 aircraft.
Repairs and Upgrades
Following shakedown trials in the Caribbean, Shangri-la underwent a period of repairs and adjustments at the Norfolk Yard in late December 1943 and January 1944. Her next maintenance period was carried out in San Pedro Bay during the last half of June 1944 after a several months of combat duty.
Returning to the States in the fall of 1945, Shangri-la went into the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard in Bremerton, Washington for a month of upkeep during December. She returned to Bremerton for more maintenance two years later, remaining until March 1947.
Her third period at the Puget Sound facility was between November 1952 and January 1955. This time, she underwent the SCB-127 modernization that was carried out on most World War II-vintage carriers during the 1950s. Most significantly, an angled flight deck was installed in addition to new steam catapults and aircraft elevators, enabling her to better deal with newer, heavier jet aircraft.
Shangri-la underwent her next maintenance period at the New York Naval Shipyard in Brooklyn, New York in the fall of 1961. A year later, she returned to that facility following a summer deployment with the 6th Fleet. This time, the work was extensive; she received new radar, electrical and engineering equipment.
From December 1965 until June 1966, Shangri-la was in the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard for overhaul and repairs to the bow, which had been damaged in collision. For the last six months before her retirement in July 1971, Shangri-la underwent an overhaul at the Boston Naval Shipyard.
Shangri-la reported for duty at Pearl Harbor in mid-February 1945. After two months of carrier qualifications, she got underway for the South Pacific. During the final months of the war, she was involved primarily in attacks on positions on the Ryukyu Islands and eventually the Japanese mainland. Although the vessel itself escaped damage, her pilots suffered a high casualty rate as Japanese resistance stiffened closer to home. Shangri-la stayed near Japan until October, assisting with occupation and rescue duties.
During the post-war years, Shangri-la was a participant in Operation Crossroads, the atomic bomb test at Bikini Atoll in July 1946. She was then mothballed at San Francisco for the next four years.
In May 1951, Shangri-la was recommissioned. After a brief period operating out of Boston, she returned to the Pacific in 1952. For the next eight years, routine operations out of San Diego were alternated with deployments to the Far East. Then in 1960, the vessel was transferred to a new home port in Mayport, Florida. During the 1960s, she followed a similar pattern, alternating local patrols and training missions with deployments to the Mediterranean with the 6th Fleet.
In 1970, Shangri-la was ordered to Yankee Station in the Gulf of Tonkin, sailing eastward though the South Atlantic and Indian Ocean. Reporting to Subic Bay, Philippines in April, she spent the next seven months off the coast of Vietnam.
Upon her return to the states in December, Shangri-la was ordered to stand down. Following one last overhaul at the Boston Naval Shipyard, she was laid up at the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard. After over a decade in mothballs, she was stricken from the Naval Register and cannibalized for parts. She was finally sold to a shipbreaker in Taiwan in August 1988, where she was dismantled and scrapped.
Asbestos Risk on the Shangri-la (CV-38)
Aside from normal asbestos exposure hazards, the Shangri-la was involved in a collision with the destroyer Newman K. Perry in the fall of 1965 during a battle exercise. This punctured her hull and bent the bow, which may have caused asbestos materials to shake loose and release fibers into the enclosed environment.
Using asbestos in the design of marine ships was ordered by the US Congress in the early 1930s, after a fire at sea aboard a luxury liner killed 137 people. Shangri-la used asbestos insulation frequently around boilers and engine compartments, as well as for fireproofing all through the ship. The mineral asbestos has long been known for its fireproofing properties, but it has also been shown to be the primary factor in the development of such life-threatening illnesses such as asbestosis and mesothelioma.
At the present time, doctors have not yet found a mesothelioma cure, but there are a number of palliative approaches such as mesothelioma surgery, which enhance the mesothelioma survival rate and make patients more comfortable. Because asbestos-caused cancers such as malignant mesothelioma are fairly rare we have compiled a Mesothelioma Treatment Guide that has extensive information concerning mesothelioma clinics, new drug trials, and treatment options. Just fill out the form on this page and we'll mail you this information, at no charge.Sources
Friedman, Norman. U.S. 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).