History of the U.S. Navy battleship USS Wisconsin (BB-64) including information about asbestos exposure for workers.
The USS Wisconsin (BB-64), nicknamed Wisky, was ordered for the U.S. Navy on June 12, 1940. Her keel was laid down at Philadelphia Naval Shipyard on January 25, 1941. She was launched on December 7, 1943 and commissioned on April 16, 1944 under the command of Captain Earl E. Stone.
USS Wisconsin didn’t join in the fighting in World War II until December 1944, when she was assigned to protect the Third Fleet’s Fast Carrier Task Force 38. The battle group was forced to ride out Typhoon Cobra on December 18. Three destroyers were lost, but the battleship was unharmed, and only two of her sailors were injured.
After the storm, the USS Wisconsin aided in the occupation of Luzon. She went on to support the carriers as they attacked Formosa, Luzon, Nansei Shoto, Saigon, Camranh Bay, Hong Kong, Canton, Hainan Island, and Okinawa. In February 1945, she supported the troop landings at Iwo Jima before moving on to Tokyo and Hachino.
During the month of March, USS Wisconsin supported the attacks on Kure, Kobe, and Kyushu before returning to Okinawa. She helped to fight off numerous kamikaze attacks on the carriers in her group, Task Force 58. She rode out another typhoon in June unscathed, though six other ships sustained some serious damage. The battleship returned for another assault on Kyushu, and one of her float-planes rescued a pilot from a downed plane from the carrier USS Shangri-La.
The USS Wisconsin headed to Leyte Gulf for repairs in June, and returned to the attack the home islands of Japan in July. She attacked targets at Muroran, Honshu, and Tokyo. She was part of the occupying force in Tokyo Bay, and she was present for the surrender ceremony on September 5, 1945. The battleship helped carry troops home as part of Operation Magic Carpet.
After World War II, USS Wisconsin served as a training ship until she was decommissioned on July 1, 1948. She was recommissioned on March 3, 1951 after North Korea invaded South Korea the previous year. The battleship reached Korean waters on December 2, providing fire support to the Marines and Republic of Korea (ROK) Corps. She remained to blast coastal targets and support carrier operations until March 1952.
USS Wisconsin returned to the U.S. as a training ship after the Korean War. She also performed diplomatic duties. The battleship received a number of repairs and overhauls before being decommissioned again on March 8, 1958.
The USS Wisconsin was again recommissioned on August 1, 1986. She was overhauled and modernized at Avondale Shipyard and Ingalls Shipbuilding. She served as a training ship and participated in fleet exercises in the time leading up to the Gulf War.
When the Gulf War began, USS Wisconsin was deployed to help protect Kuwait as part of Operation Desert Shield. She fired Tomahawk Missiles against Iraq when Operation Desert Storm began. She remained in the Persian Gulf until after the cease-fire took effect in March 1991. USS Wisconsin was decommissioned for the last time on September 30, 1991 and struck from the Naval Vessel Register on January 12, 1995. He now serves as a museum ship at the Hampton Roads Naval Museum, though she is still owned by the U.S. Navy as part of the mothball fleet. The battleship earned five battle stars for her service in World War II, one for the Korean War, and other awards for World War II, the Korean War, and Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm.
Like all other ships built in the World War II era, the USS Wisconsin was built using many asbestos-containing components. Asbestos was prized for its resistance to water, fire, heat, and corrosion. It was used in virtually every area of the ship, including steam pipes, hot water pipes, valves, gaskets, pumps, caulking, fire doors, sealants, rope, floor and ceiling tiles, wall insulation, turbines, incinerators, and engine rooms. Anyone who served aboard the battleship or was involved in its repair and overhaul was put at risk for some serious asbestos-related illnesses like lung cancer, throat cancer, stomach cancer, colon cancer, rectal cancer, asbestosis, and mesothelioma, a deadly form of cancer that attacks the protective lining surrounding the lungs and other organs.
USS Wisconsin 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 Wisconsin, and is diagnosed with mesothelioma, should also consider contacting a lawyer to discuss their legal rights.