History of the U.S. Navy battleship USS Idaho (BB-42) including information about asbestos exposure for workers.
The USS Idaho (BB-42) was ordered for the U.S. Navy before World War I. Her keel was laid down at New York Shipbuilding Corporation on April 5, 1915. She was launched on June 30, 1917 and commissioned on March 24, 1919 under the command of Captain C.T. Vogelgesang.
USS Idaho transported Brazilian President Epitácio Pessoa from New York City to Rio de Janeiro in July 1919. She then joined the Pacific Fleet in Monterey, California via the Panama Canal. She participated in training exercises and a Fleet Review by President Woodrow Wilson on September 13, 1919. She carried the Secretary of the Navy and the Secretary of the Interior on an inspection tour of Alaska in 1920.
In the years between the World Wars, the USS Idaho was involved in a number of training exercises, war games, and ceremonies. She was modernized and overhauled several times, and returned to her homeport at San Pedro, California in April 1935.
USS Idaho arrived with the Battle Fleet at Pearl Harbor on July 1, 1940. She headed to Hampton Roads in June 1941 for Atlantic neutrality patrol. The battleship was on station at Hvalfjörður in Iceland when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. Two days later, she and her sister ship USS Mississippi departed for San Francisco via Norfolk and the Panama Canal to join the Pacific Fleet. She performed battle exercises and had her guns upgraded before she sailed for the Aleutian Islands in April 1943. She served as the flagship for the bombardment and patrol force around Attu. She provided gunfire support for the U.S. Army landings there on May 11, 1943. The battleship then moved to Kiska for the assault on August 15. The Japanese were found to have evacuated the month before.
Over the next few years, the USS Idaho was involved in the invasions of the Gilbert Islands, Makin Atoll, the Marshall Islands, Kwajalein, Kaveing, the Marianas, Saipan, Guam, and the Battle of the Philippine Sea. She entered a floating dry dock at Espiritu Santo on August 15, 1944 to repair her armor. She was further damaged in the bombardment of Peleiu and had to return to Bremerton, Washington for repairs in October.
In January 1945, USS Idaho joined the battleship group at Pearl Harbor to prepare for the invasion of Iwo Jima. After the successful invasion of Iwo Jima, she participated in the intense invasion of Okinawa. She shot down five kamikazes on April 12 before suffering damage to her port blisters. She sailed to Guam for repairs several days later and was able to return to Okinawa for further fire support by May 22. The battleship sailed to Leyte Gulf before the war ended.
The USS Idaho was anchored in Tokyo Bay when the signing of the surrender took place on board the USS Missouri on September 2, 1945. She returned Norfolk via the Panama Canal; she received seven battle stars for her service. The battleship was decommissioned on July 3, 1946 and sold for scrap to Lipsett Inc. on November 24, 1947.
Like other U.S. Navy ships of its time, the USS Idaho was built using many asbestos-containing materials. The toxic substance asbestos was known for its resistance to fire, water, heat, and corrosion, and inexpensive to acquire. Because of this, asbestos could be found in gaskets, valves, pumps, steam pipes, hot water pipes, incinerators, turbines, boilers, engine rooms, electrical wiring, floor tiles, ceiling tiles, wall insulation, sealants, and caulking. Anyone who served aboard the battleship or helped in her repair and overhaul was exposed to asbestos without the aid of respiratory gear or protective clothing, putting them at risk for life-threatening illnesses like lung cancer, mesothelioma, throat cancer, stomach cancer, colon cancer, rectal cancer, and asbestosis. Mesothelioma is a rare but fatal form of cancer affecting the protective lining that surrounds the lungs and other organs.
USS Idaho workers should monitor their health carefully, and consult a doctor if they experience any symptoms associated with mesothelioma. Anyone who worked on or around the USS Idaho, and is diagnosed with mesothelioma, should also consider contacting a lawyer to discuss their legal rights.