The USS Lake Champlain (CV-39) was ordered for the U.S. Navy during World War II. Her keel was laid down at Norfolk Navy Yard on March 15, 1943. She was launched on November 2, 1944 and commissioned on June 3, 1945 under the command of Captain Logan C. Ramsey.
USS Lake Champlain served first on Operation Magic Carpet duty, bringing American troops home from World War II. She set a record for crossing the Atlantic at an average speed of 32.048 knots when she sailed from Cape Spartel, Africa to Hampton Roads, Virginia in four days, eight hours, and 51 minutes in November 1945.
The USS Lake Champlain was decommissioned on February 17, 1947, but modernized and recommissioned on September 19, 1952 under the command of Captain G.T. Mundroff. On her way to Korea, she became the largest ship to transit the Suez Canal. After she arrived at Yokosuka, Japan, she became the flagship for Carrier Task Force 77. The Task Force arrived off the coast of Korean on June 14, 1953. Her aircraft struck at North Korean targets until the truce was signed on July 27.
After the Korean War, USS Lake Champlain cruised to Mediterranean several times. While there, she participated in NATO exercises and helped avert crisis in the Middle East. When she returned to Mayport on July 27, 1957, she was converted to an antisubmarine warfare carrier and reclassified as CVS-39.
In the following year, the USS Lake Champlain would return to the Mediterranean, providing disaster relief when flooding devastated the Spanish city of Valencia. She underwent a period of overhaul and made several ports of call before her homeport was moved to Quonset Point on September 4, 1958.
USS Lake Champlain served as the recovery ship for Project Mercury astronaut Commander Alan Shepard and his Freedom 7 space capsule when they splashed down on May 1, 1960. She then headed to the Caribbean for a midshipmen cruise. On October 24, she joined the naval blockade of Cuba, called a quarantine, during the Cuban Missile Crisis. She returned home for overhaul and training, then provided disaster relief to Haiti following Hurricane Flora.
The USS Lake Champlain operated off the coast of New England for a short time. She cruised to Bermuda and Spain before conducting training duty and exercises along the East Coast. The aircraft carrier was the primary recovery ship for the Gemini 5 space capsule on August 5, 1965, her last major duty.
USS Lake Champlain was decommissioned on May 2, 1966. She was struck from the Naval Vessel Register on December 1, 1969 and sold for scrap on April 28, 1972.
Like other ships from the World War II era, the USS Lake Champlain was constructed using many asbestos-containing components. The hazardous material asbestos was prized for its fireproofing properties and its resistance to heat, water, and corrosion. Because of this, it could be found in rope, sealants, wall insulation, floor and ceiling tiles, engine rooms, pumps, hot water pipes, boilers, caulking, valves, steam pipes, incinerators, turbines, engine rooms, and in the aircraft she carried. Anyone who served aboard the USS Lake Champlain or was involved in her repair and overhaul was put at risk of developing serious asbestos-related illnesses like throat cancer, stomach cancer, colon cancer, rectal cancer, lung cancer, asbestosis, or mesothelioma, a rare but serious form of cancer that affects the protective lining surrounding the lungs and other organs.
USS Lake Champlain 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 Lake Champlain, and is diagnosed with mesothelioma, should also consider contacting a lawyer to discuss their legal rights.