History of the U.S. Navy battleship USS Maryland (BB-46) including information about asbestos exposure for workers.
The USS Maryland (BB-46) was ordered for the U.S. Navy on December 5, 1916. Her keel was laid down at Newport News Shipbuilding Company on April 24, 1917. She was launched on March 20, 1920 and commissioned on July 21, 1921 under the command of Captain C. F. Preston.
USS Maryland was in great demand because of her seaplane catapult and 16-inch guns. She appeared at many special occasions, including the 1922 graduation ceremony at the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, the anniversary of the Battle of Bunker Hill in Boston, Independence Day in Boston, and Brazil’s Centennial Exposition in Rio de Janeiro.
The USS Maryland went on a good will voyage to New Zealand and Australia in 1925. She also transported President-elect Herbert Hoover for part of his Latin American tour in 1928. The battleship took part in numerous training operations and received upgrades to her arms and armor leading up to World War II.
At the start of World War II, USS Maryland was moored at Pearl Harbor when the Japanese attacked on December 7, 1941. Protected from the initial torpedo attack by the USS Oklahoma, she was struck by two armor-piercing bombs. While she retained damage and flooding, she did not sink. The battleship went to Puget Sound Navy Yard for repairs and modernization.
USS Maryland served as part of the backup force during the Battle of Midway. She later was assigned to sentinel duty along southern supply routes, operating out of the Fiji Islands and the New Hebrides.
The USS Maryland became the flagship for Rear Admiral Harry W. Hill’s Southern Attack Force in October 1943 for the invasion of the Gilbert Islands. She supported the assault at Tarawa the following month. The battleship joined TF 53 to bombard Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands on January 31, 1944, after which she headed to Bremerton for an overhaul.
USS Maryland returned to battle in time for the assault on Saipan. She was damaged by a torpedo on June 22, 1944. There were some casualties, and the battleship headed to Pearl Harbor for repairs. When the repair work was finished, she headed to the Palau Islands with Rear Admiral Jesse B. Oldendorf’s Western Fire Support Group.
The battleship was reassigned to the Seventh Fleet to cover troop landings at Leyte and support the Battle of Leyte Gulf. She patrolled the Surigao Strait during October and November. The USS Maryland was hit by kamikaze attacks on November 17 and November 29, but she was able to continue her patrols until December 2 despite damage and casualties. After she was repaired at Pearl Harbor, she had gained the nickname “Fighting Mary.”
The USS Maryland took part in the invasion of Okinawa as part of Rear Admiral M.L. Deyo’s TF 54. She provided fire support and hit bombarded shore targets. She was hit by another kamikaze on April 7, 1945, killing 53 men. After being overhauled at the Puget Sound Navy Yard, she returned over 8,000 U.S servicemen as part of Operation Magic Carpet.
USS Maryland was decommissioned on April 3, 1947 and sold for scrap on July 8, 1959. The battleship received seven battle stars for her service in World War II.
Like virtually all other ships of its time, the USS Maryland was built using a number of asbestos-containing components. Asbestos was known for its resistance to heat, water, fire, and corrosion. It could be found in floor and ceiling tiles, wall insulation, electrical wiring, hot water pipes, steam pipes, pumps, valves, gaskets, boilers, incinerators, turbines, caulking, sealants, and engine rooms. Anyone who served on the USS Maryland or performed repairs on her was exposed to dangerous levels of asbestos without the benefit of protective clothing or respiratory gear. This could lead to a number of life-threatening asbestos-related illnesses like lung cancer, throat cancer, stomach cancer, colon cancer, rectal cancer, asbestosis, or mesothelioma, which is a dangerous form of cancer that attacks the protective lining that surrounds the lungs and other organs.
USS Maryland 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 Maryland, and is diagnosed with mesothelioma, should also consider contacting a lawyer to discuss their legal rights.