Description: History of the U.S. Navy aircraft carrier USS Saratoga (CV-3) including information about asbestos exposure for workers.
The USS Saratoga (CV-3) was originally ordered for the U.S. Navy as a battle cruiser in 1917, but the order was changed to an aircraft carrier in 1922. Her keel was laid down at New York Shipbuilding Corporation on September 25, 1920. She was launched on April 7, 1925 and commissioned on November 16, 1927 under the command of Captain Harry E. Yarnell.
The first aircraft landed aboard USS Saratoga on January 11, 1928. After transporting Marines to Nicaragua in February, she reported to San Pedro to join the Battle Fleet on February 21. She took part in Fleet Problem IX the following January, in which she was detached with only a single cruiser escort to make an attack, a tactic that was reused in Fleet Problem X in 1930. The aircraft carrier was part of the Presidential Review in May 1930.
In the years that followed, the USS Saratoga participated in exercises off the coast of California and sailed to participate in annual Fleet Problems. She underwent regular overhauls at Bremerton. During Fleet Problem XIX, the aircraft carrier launched a surprise aerial attack on Pearl Harbor in a manner that was copied by the Japanese several years later.
USS Saratoga had just undergone modernization and overhaul when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. She was deployed from San Diego to Wake Island, transporting Marine aircraft to reinforce the garrison there. Due to delays in reaching their destination, Wake Island fell to the Japanese on December 23.
While operating in Hawaiian water, the USS Saratoga was hit by a torpedo from Japanese submarine I-6 on January 11, 1942. Six men were killed, and though three of her fire rooms flooded, she made it to Oahu under her own power. After receiving temporary repairs there, she headed to Bremerton for permanent repair work, which was completed in May.
The USS Saratoga was sailing for Midway in early June, but arrived at Pearl Harbor after the Battle of Midway had already ended on June 6. She was then ordered north for operations in the Aleutian Islands, but the operation was canceled, and she sailed back to Pearl Harbor.
After transporting aircraft to Midway in late June, the USS Saratoga headed to the southwest Pacific. She provided air cover for rehearsal landings in the Fiji Islands at the end of July before becoming the flagship for Rear Admiral Frank Jack Fletcher for the attack on Guadalcanal on August 7. The carrier covered the troop landings in the following days before heading out to the Solomon Islands.
While patrolling the waters east of the Solomons in early September, USS Saratoga was struck by a torpedo from Japanese submarine I-26. Only one of her fire rooms flooded, and no one was killed, but short circuits in her propulsion system left the carrier dead in the water. She was towed by the USS Minneapolis until her engineers were able to improvise a circuit and allowed her to reach a speed of 10 knots. The aircraft carrier received temporary repairs at Tongatapu before sailing to Pearl Harbor with the USS New Orleans for permanent repairs.
Once repair work was complete, the USS Saratoga headed for Nouméa via Fiji, arriving on December 5, 1942. She remained in this area for the next 12 months, providing air cover and protecting American forces. Her aircraft launched strikes on Buka Island and Rabaul in November 1943. Shortly afterward, she and the USS Princeton were designated the Relief Carrier Group for operations in the Gilbert Islands. She struck at targets in Nauru and provided air cover for operations in Makin and Tarawa before sailing to San Francisco for her first overhaul in a year, which lasted from December 9, 1943 until January 3, 1944.
USS Saratoga rejoined the battle at the end of January, striking at Wotje, Taroa, and Eniwetok. She covered the troop landings at Eniwetok in February, remaining to provide close air support until the end of the month.
From there, the USS Saratoga sailed to join the British Eastern Fleet in the Indian Ocean in March. They helped conduct training for the international force that included warships from Britain, France, Australia, New Zealand, and the Netherlands. In April, she took part in Operation Cockpit, where her aircraft struck the port of Sabang in Sumatra. She struck at Soerabaja, Java in May before being detached on May 18. The carrier headed back to Bremerton for overhaul.
The USS Saratoga returned to Pearl Harbor on September 24, where she began training night fighter squadrons. She continued training pilots until she was called back to the battle in January 1945. Along with the USS Enterprise, she formed a night fighter task group for operations at Iwo Jima. After landing rehearsals and diversionary strikes on the Japanese home islands, the carrier was detached from her task force to perform night patrols over Iwo Jima.
On February 21, USS Saratoga was attacked by six Japanese aircraft that scored five hits in three minutes. The carrier sustained heavy damage to her flight deck and her starboard side, with fires raging in her hangar deck. She lost 123 men. Once the fires were under control, she was ordered to Eniwetok and Bremerton for repairs.
Repair work was completed by May 22, and the USS Saratoga headed back to Pearl Harbor to train pilots. After World War II ended, she ceased her training duties to take part in Operation Magic Carpet, in which she brought over 29,000 troops home from war, more than any other single ship.
USS Saratoga was assigned as a target for Operation Crossroads, nuclear testing at Bikini Atoll. On July 1, 1946, she sustained only minor damage from the blast she received in Test Able. The second blast on July 25, Test Baker, caused irreparable damage, and she sank seven and a half hours later. She was removed from the Naval Vessel Register on August 15, 1946. The carrier earned seven battle stars for her service in World War II.
Like virtually every other ship of her time, the USS Saratoga was made from asbestos-containing components. The hazardous material asbestos was known for its resistance to water, heat, fire, and corrosion, so it could be found in nearly all areas of the ship and in the aircraft she carried. Anyone who served onboard the USS Saratoga or was involved in her repair and overhaul was put at risk of developing deadly asbestos-related illnesses like lung cancer, throat cancer, stomach cancer, colon cancer, rectal cancer, asbestosis, or mesothelioma, a form of cancer that attacks the protective lining surrounding the lungs and other organs.
USS Saratoga 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 Saratoga, and is diagnosed with mesothelioma, should also consider contacting a lawyer to discuss their legal rights.