History of the U.S. Navy battleship USS New York (BB-34) including information about asbestos exposure for workers.
USS New York (BB-34) was ordered for the U.S. Navy several years before the start of World War I. Her keel was laid down at Brooklyn Navy Yard on September 11, 1911. She was launched on October 30, 1912 and commissioned on April 15, 1914 under the command of Captain Thomas S. Rogers.
The USS New York served first as flagship for Rear Admiral Frank Friday Fletcher. The fleet occupied and blockaded Veracruz during the crisis with Mexico until July 1914. The battleship moved north along the Atlantic coast as World War I began in Europe.
In World War I, USS New York served as flagship for Rear Admiral Hugh Rodman, Commander Battleship Division 9. The United States helped to strengthen the British Grand Fleet, operating as the 6th Battle Squadron. She was often visited by high-ranking representatives of the Allied Forces, and she was present for the surrender of the German High Seas Fleet on November 21, 1918. The battleship joined in President Woodrow Wilson’s escort on his way home from the Paris Peace Conference.
Between the two World Wars, the USS New York was involved in many training exercises. She was overhauled several times. After training in the Caribbean, she headed to San Diego to join the Pacific Fleet. She carried Admiral Hugh Rodman to attend the coronation of King George VI in 1937, and she also took part in the Grand Naval Review on May 20 of that year.
As World War II began in Europe, USS New York joined the Neutrality Patrol, escorting troops to Iceland and protecting the American base at Naval Station Argentia in Newfoundland. When the United States entered the war, the battleship guarded convoys to Iceland and Scotland.
In 1942, the USS New York provided fire support for the invasion of North Africa at Safi, Casablanca, and Fedhala. She then headed home to escort troop and supply convoys to the region. The battleship provided gunnery training in Chesapeake Bay and San Pedro before heading to Eniwetok in January 1945.
USS New York aided in the pre-invasion bombardment of Iwo Jima in February. She fired more rounds than any other ship there, including a direct hit on an enemy ammunition dump. From there, she stopped briefly at Manus to have her propellers repaired, then headed to Okinawa for pre-invasion bombardment, covering troop landing, and supporting the ground forces for 76 days. She survived a kamikaze attack on April 14, 1945, which destroyed her spotting plane. After the war ended, she participated in Operation Magic Carpet, bringing veterans back home to the U.S. mainland. The battleship earned three battle stars for her service in World War II.
After World War II, the USS New York was prepared to act as a target ship in Operation Crossroads, the atomic tests at Bikini Atoll. She survived a surface blast on July 1, 1946 and an underwater explosion on July 25. She was decommissioned on August 29, 1946 and sunk during weapons testing in the waters off Pearl Harbor on July 8, 1948.
Like the other battleships of her time, USS New York was constructed using a number of asbestos-containing materials. Asbestos was known for its fireproofing properties, as well as its resistance to heat, water, and corrosion. Because it was a cheap and readily available insulator, it was used in floor and ceiling tiles, wall insulation, fire doors, engine rooms, turbines, incinerators, boilers, sealants, rope, gaskets, valves, hot water pipes, steam pipes, pumps, and caulking. Men who worked on or around the USS New York were exposed to dangerous levels of asbestos without being provided with protective clothing or respiratory gear. This put them at risk of developing some life-threatening asbestos-related illnesses like asbestos, lung cancer, throat cancer, stomach cancer, colon cancer, rectal cancer, or mesothelioma, a form of cancer that attacks the protective lining surrounding the lungs and other organs.
USS New York 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 New York, and is diagnosed with mesothelioma, should also consider contacting a lawyer to discuss their legal rights.