U.S.S. Okanogan (APA-220)

Okanogan was a Haskell-class attack transport. She served with the U.S. Navy in WWII, Korea, and Viet Nam.

Construction

She was laid down on August 10, 1944 by Permanente Metals Co. at Richmond, CA and commissioned December 3, 1944.

Service

Okanogan sailed for Pearl Harbor on February 16, 1945 to embark troops to reinforce soldiers and marines on Okinawa. With 740 Army personnel embarked, she sailed from Pearl Harbor, arriving off Okinawa on April 17. The transport stayed for five days before heading south to Saipan with 160 wounded men. She then took aboard 1,000 servicemen for transport back to the West Coast. Okanogan continued to shuttle men from Pearl Harbor and the West Coast to the battle zone and back until the end of hostilities. After bringing in fresh troops for occupation duty and returning veterans home, the transport sailed for the Atlantic Fleet, arriving at Norfolk, VA in February 1946.

In the interim period between WWII and the Korean War, Okanogan operated in the Atlantic, partaking in numerous exercises, mostly involving amphibious operations. When war erupted on the Korean Peninsula, the transport headed back to the Pacific. She arrived at San Diego in August 1950 and took on elements of the 1st Marine Division, destined for the landings at Inchon. She disembarked her Marines without incident on September 15, despite numerous obstacles. Okanogan took aboard more of the 1st Marines for the assault on Wonsan, which she landed on October 26.

In December, she found herself loaded with refugees, 2,200 in number, from the town of Chinampo, as advancing enemy forces had marked them for death. While at sea, a baby was delivered and the grateful parents named her “Nogan” in honor of their savior. She spent the remainder of the conflict in secondary duties. In December 1952, the ship transferred to Long Beach and began an intense cycle of training exercises that would last over eight years.

Okanogan sailed for the Far East on February 16, 1960 for a unique mission. After unloading landing craft at Laos, she received a cargo of Thai and Vietnamese art for transport back to the U.S. as a temporary exhibit.

Okanogan left Long Beach for the Viet Nam warzone on April 19, 1965. She transported ammunition from Okinawa to points on the Vietnamese coast, including Da Nang, until July, when she took up duty as a station ship. She sat off Da Nang, launching boats at a constant pace for an average of eighteen to twenty hours a day. In this capacity, she was vital to building a large American base there. After a quick stay in Long Beach, she headed back to Da Nang, arriving in June 1966. She would remain there as a station ship and support vessel for the fleet until 1968.

Fate

The veteran transport returned to the States in 1969 and was decommissioned shortly thereafter. She was struck from the Navy List on June 1, 1973 and sold for scrapping on October 2, 1979.

Risk of Asbestos Exposure

Okanogan was a steam-powered vessel built during WWII. As such, asbestos would have been present throughout the ship, particularly as an insulator on her steam boilers, piping, and turbine. Asbestos may have also been present in deck tiles and other machinery.

Asbestos-based products release tiny fibers when damaged or worn down, and these fibers can travel through a ship rapidly via her ventilation system. Inhalation of asbestos is a proven cause of mesothelioma, a malignant lung cancer. While there is no cure for mesothelioma, treatments such as chemotherapy can be employed to fight the disease.

If you or someone you know served aboard Okanogan or worked on her in a shipyard and has contracted mesothelioma, please fill out the form at the bottom of this page to receive free information regarding your rights to compensation.

Resources/Further Reading

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