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USS Wasp (CV-18)

USS Wasp (CV-18)

The USS Wasp (CV-18) was an Essex- class aircraft carrier serving in the US Navy from World War II through the Vietnam era. Originally scheduled to be named Oriskany, she was renamed after the sinking of Wasp (CV-7) in September 1942 during the Battle of Guadalcanal. Wasp (CV-18) was commissioned in November 1943 under command of Captain Clifton Sprague.

Construction

Wasp was constructed at the Bethlehem Steel Company's Fore River shipyard in Quincy, Massachusetts. Her keel was laid in March 1942 and her completed hull launched in August 1943.

Wasp had a length of 872 feet and a beam of 147 feet, displacing 36,800 tons when fully loaded. Wasp's engines consisted of four Westinghouse geared steam turbines powered by eight Babcock and Wilcox boilers. She carried 2600 officers and seamen in support of her air wing of between 90 and 100 planes.

Repairs and Upgrades

Following her shakedown voyage at the end of 1943, Wasp returned to Fore River to have a number of defects corrected (a typical process for any naval vessel, let alone one as large and complex as an aircraft carrier).

She underwent repairs at the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard in Bremerton, Washington between mid-April and mid-July 1945 for repairs after she was struck by bombs off Iwo Jima.

Following the war, Wasp underwent minor modifications at the New York Naval Shipyard during the first half of November 1945 in order to serve as a transport vessel. During the summer of 1948, Wasp was again moved to the New York Naval Shipyard to undergo conversion work that would enable her to handle the new jet aircraft then coming into use.

In May 1952, Wasp was at Bayonne, New Jersey to be fitted with a new bow following a collision with a destroyer minesweeper. From November 1952 until September 1953, Wasp was in the New York Naval Shipyard undergoing preparations for a circumnavigation of the globe. Further modifications were made starting in April 1955 at the San Francisco Naval Shipyard when she underwent an SCB-127 conversion, a program to update the facilities of World War II-era carriers, enabling them to better handle the heavier jet aircraft of the post-war era. The most significant alternations made were the installation of an enclosed bow (known as a "hurricane bow") and an angled flight deck, enabling the simultaneous take off and recovery of aircraft.

Wasp underwent regular maintenance and repairs at the Boston Naval Shipyard in 1960, 1962, 1963, 1966 and 1968.

Wartime Service

Wasp served honorably in several Pacific campaigns during 1944 and 1945. Following the cessation of hostilities, the carrier served as a transport vessel during Operation Magic Carpet, the return home of tens of thousands of American troops overseas after the war had ended. Taken out of commission in February 1947, the carrier underwent numerous modifications between the summer of 1948 and September 1951 before re-entering service.

During the early 1950s, the carrier operated in the Atlantic and Mediterranean, participating in NATO exercises and paying good-will visits to various ports. She was transferred to the Pacific, conducting patrols in the South China Sea. Following her SBC-127 conversion, she made one more tour of the Far East before being transferred back to the Atlantic in 1957.

The next several years were spent making periodic deployments to the Atlantic and Mediterranean, conducting various battle exercises and diplomatic functions in addition to routine patrols. In October 1962, the US and USSR nearly came to blows over the Soviet deployment of missiles in Cuba. Wasp was ordered to Cuban waters as part of the blockade during the crisis.

Wasp was most notable for her role as a recovery ship for three Gemini space missions in the late 1960s. For the remainder of her career, she operated in the Atlantic, Caribbean and Mediterranean when not carrying out routine duties out of her home ports on the Eastern Seaboard.

Wasp was decommissioned in July 1972 and sold for scrap to the Union Minerals and Alloys Corporations of New York City.

Asbestos Risk on the USS Wasp (CV-18)

Asbestos exposure aboard naval ships was frequently exacerbated by battle damage and collisions as well as storms. Wasp sustained bomb damage during the invasion of Iwo Jima in early 1945, and in late April 1952, she sustained severe damage to her bow as the result of a collision with a minesweeper during might operations near Gibraltar. The use of asbestos insulation in the construction of marine vessels was required by the US Congress in the 1930s, after a deadly fire on a cruise ship resulted in great loss of life. Navy ships like Wasp made use of asbestos frequently in ship's boilers and engine compartments, and for fireproofing throughout the ship. When asbestos-containing material is worn or damaged it can become "friable", meaning that fibers can be broken off and escape into the atmosphere, and then can be inhaled or ingested by crewmen and shipfitters, potentially leading to the development of mesothelioma.

Sadly, a mesothelioma prognosis is not usually good; usually mesothelioma disease victims survive for around a year after being diagnosed. If you or a loved one has contracted peritoneal or pleural mesothelioma, you should know that you have legal remedies available and finding a good mesothelioma attorney can aid you in deciding your best course of action.

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Sources

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).

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