History of the U.S. Navy battleship USS Indiana (BB-58) including information about asbestos exposure for workers.
The USS Indiana (BB-58) was ordered for the U.S. Navy on December 15, 1938. Her keep was laid down at Newport News Shipbuilding and Dry Dock Company on November 20, 1939. She was launched two years later on November 21, 1941 and commissioned on April 30, 1942 under the command of Captain A.A. Merrill.
After shakedown in Casco Bay, Maine, USS Indiana joined the Navy’s Pacific Fleet via the Panama Canal. She became part of Rear Admiral Lee’s aircraft carrier screening force in November 1942, protecting the USS Enterprise and USS Saratoga before supporting forces in the Solomon Islands.
On November 11, 1943, the USS Indiana helped support the invasion of the Gilbert Islands. She screened the carriers supporting the invasion of Tarawa before bombarding Kwajalein for eight days. While maneuvering to refuel the destroyers on February 1, 1944, she collided with the USS Washington, killing several men. The battleship made temporary repairs to her starboard side at Majuro Atoll, but had to go to Pearl Harbor for permanent repairs. The captain of the ship admitted his fault in the collision, and he was replaced by Admiral Nimitz in command.
In late April 1944, USS Indiana took part in the Truk Atoll raids as part of Task Force 58. The next day, she bombarded Ponape Island. One month later in June, the battleship supported the invasion of the Mariana Islands. The battleship bombarded Saipan Island and participated in the Battle of the Philippine Sea. During the Battle, USS Indiana shot down several Japanese planes and survived two near misses by torpedo strikes.
The USS Indiana continued to support the Marianas invasion until August, when she joined Task Group 38.3. She bombarded the Palau Islands and the Philippines, and screened strikes on enemy shore installations before the invasion of Leyte Island. The battleship missed the Battle of Leyte Gulf when she headed off for a major overhaul and armament upgrade at the Naval Shipyard in Bremerton, Washington.
After her overhaul was complete, USS Indiana rejoined the fleet at Pearl Harbor. She took part in the bombardment of Iwo Jima on January 24, 1945 and supported the invasion efforts there the following month. She also supported the air strike on Okinawa and the invasion operations. The battleship turned away kamikazes and survived a typhoon. In late summer 1945, she supported air strikes against Japan and bombarded coastal targets before returning home to San Francisco, California.
When World War II was over, the USS Indiana was placed in reserve status. She received nine battle stars for her service in World War II. The battleship was decommissioned on September 11, 1947 and sold for scrap in October 1963.
World War II era battleships like USS Indiana were built using a number of asbestos-containing materials. Asbestos was known for its fireproofing properties and its resistance to corrosion, heat, and water. This cheap but toxic insulator could be found in pumps, hot water pipes, steam pipes, caulking, boilers, valves, gaskets, incinerators, turbines, engine rooms, fire doors, floor and ceiling tiles, wall insulation, electrical wiring, caulking, and sealants. Men who worked in or around the USS Indiana were exposed to asbestos without the aid of respiratory gear or protective clothing.
When asbestos fibers are inhaled or ingested, they can become lodged in the lungs and digestive tract. This can lead to some very serious asbestos-related illnesses, including lung cancer, mesothelioma, asbestosis, throat cancer, stomach cancer, colon cancer, and rectal cancer. Mesothelioma is a deadly type of cancer that attacks the protective lining surrounding the lungs and other organs.
USS Alabama 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 Indiana, and is diagnosed with mesothelioma, should also consider contacting a lawyer to discuss their legal rights.