U.S.S. Saratoga CV-60 (Aircraft Carrier)
Built in the early 1950s by the New York Naval Shipyard in Brooklyn, New York, U.S.S. Saratoga was one of four supercarriers built for the US Navy as the fleets shifted focus from gunships to naval aviation as the primary means of demonstrating naval strength. Saratoga would serve the fleet through five decades.
Commissioned in 1956, Saratoga served in the Atlantic along the US east coast, and in the Mediterranean with the Sixth Fleet, interspersed with yard availabilities for maintenance and overhaul. One notable event during this period was an at sea collision with a German freighter off the coast of North Carolina, an episode of which detailed information remains classified, despite the US Government paying for repairs to the civilian vessel.
Saratoga remained in the Atlantic and Mediterranean areas until 1972, when the ship departed its homeport of Mayport, Florida for service in the Vietnamese theater. Operating out of Subic Bay, in the Philippines, Saratoga made seven deployments to Yankee Station, off the Gulf of Tonkin, its aircraft performing bombing, ground support, and fighter support missions over Vietnam. Its combat mission completed, Saratoga returned to the Atlantic fleet and Mayport.
The rest of the decade found Saratoga providing diplomatic support on “show the flag” missions, operating with fleet units for training and exercises, and receiving repairs and maintenance as needed.
In the 1990s Saratoga supported Operation Desert Storm, its aircraft providing ground support and bombing missions.
Saratoga was decommissioned in 1994. Since then the ship has been towed to Philadelphia and Newport as its fate awaits determination. Despite several efforts to designate the ship as a museum, no group has been able to raise the necessary funds. Saratoga will likely be sold for scrap.
Asbestos Exposure on U.S.S. Saratoga
U.S.S. Saratoga was built during a time when the use of asbestos materials in the construction of ships was widespread. Asbestos was valued for its insulating properties, its resistance to fire, and its durability. Components containing asbestos were found in nearly all areas of the ship.
Asbestos was used in the manufacture of boilers, clutches and brakes, electrical panels and insulation, deck tiles, overhead tiles, ventilation system components, valve packings, gaskets and seals, cements, glues, pipe dope and paints, and in the cloth used for insulating pipes, amongst many other components aboard the ship.
Pipes insulated with asbestos lagging ran throughout the vessel. Although contained when painted, the deterioration of the paint or the insulation itself, accelerated by harsh conditions found in routine shipboard operations, would release asbestos fibers into the ship’s atmosphere. This could continue indefinitely in hard to reach areas.
Those aboard during overhauls and maintenance periods, when much equipment was removed or under repair, would see the likelihood of asbestos exposure increased, due to the need to remove insulation to reach equipment.