History of the U.S. Navy battleship USS Nevada (BB-36) including information about asbestos exposure for workers.
The USS Nevada (BB-36) was ordered for the U.S. Navy on March 4, 1911. Her keel was laid down at Fore River Shipyard on November 4, 1912. She was launched on July 11, 1914 and commissioned two years later on March 11, 1916 under the command of Captain William S. Sims.
USS Nevada joined the Navy’s Atlantic Fleet in May 1916, conducting training exercises from Norfolk to the Caribbean. When World War I began, she was the last American ship to join the British Grand Fleet in August 1918. The battleship helped escort convoys without engaging in battle before the end of the war. The USS Nevada was one of 10 battleship and 28 destroyers to accompany President Woodrow Wilson to Brest on the USS George Washington.
Between the two World Wars, the USS Nevada was involved in a number of ceremonial events. She represented the United States at the Peruvian Centennial Exposition in 1921 before attending the Centennial of Brazilian Independence in Rio de Janeiro the following year. She took part in the goodwill cruise to Australia and New Zealand in 1925 before undergoing modernization at the Norfolk Naval Shipyard from 1927 to 1930. She served in the Pacific Fleet for the next 11 years.
The USS Nevada was moored at Pearl Harbor when the Japanese attacked on December 7, 1941. She was struck by six bombs and one torpedo, killing 60 men and injuring 109 others. Two more men died during salvage operations. The battleship was refloated on February 12, 1942; temporary repairs were made at Pearl Harbor that allowed her to reach Puget Sound Navy Hard for a complete overhaul.
USS Nevada rejoined the war effort in time to provide fire support for the capture of Attu in May 1943. She then underwent further modernization at Norfolk Navy Hard before beginning Atlantic convoy duty. She was chosen as the flagship of Rear Admiral Carleton F. Bryant, and met no enemy engagement during her duties.
As the flagship for Rear Admiral Morton Deyo, USS Nevada supported the invasion of Normandy in June 1944. She was the only battleship that had been present at both Pearl Harbor and the troop landings at Normandy.
After D-Day, the USS Nevada supported Operation Dragoon in the Mediterranean. She helped level “Big Willie,” a heavily reinforced fortress, which was instrumental in the fall of Toulon.
USS Nevada headed to New York to realign and upgrade her armament before participating in the pre-invasion bombardment of Iwo Jima in February 1945. As part of Task Force 54, she also took part in the bombardment of Okinawa. On March 24, she was hit by a kamikaze, killing 11 men and injuring 49. Two more men were lost when fired upon by a shore battery on April 5. She was briefly involved in supporting occupation forces in Tokyo Bay before returning to Pearl Harbor.
Because she was so old, the USS Nevada was chosen to test atomic bombs as part of Operation Crossroads at the Bikini Atoll in July 1946. The first bomb, Able, went off-target and missed the battleship. The second bomb, Baker, detonated 90 feet below the surface of the water. The battleship did not sink, but she was damaged and extremely radioactive. She was towed to Pearl Harbor and decommissioned on August 29, 1946. In 1948, the battleship was used for gunnery target practice. Three cruisers could not sink her, so she was torpedoed and sank approximately 60 miles southwest of Pearl Harbor.
Like many other ships of its time, the USS Nevada was constructed with a variety of asbestos-containing materials. The toxic substance was known for its resistance to fire, heat, water, and corrosion, so it was used in many components: turbines, gaskets, incinerators, engine rooms, sealants, electrical insulation, fire doors, floor and ceiling tiles, wall insulation, valves, steam pipes, hot water pipes, and pumps. Men who served aboard the USS Nevada or were involved in her repair and maintenance were exposed to dangerous levels of asbestos, putting them at risk for contracting mesothelioma, asbestosis, lung cancer, throat cancer, stomach cancer, colon cancer, or rectal cancer.
USS Nevada 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 Nevada, and is diagnosed with mesothelioma, should also consider contacting a lawyer to discuss their legal rights.