U.S.S. Bold AM 424 (Auxiliary Ship, Minesweeper)
Built by the Norfolk Naval Shipyard, U.S.S. Bold was a fleet minesweeper, designed for the purpose of clearing mines to allow the passage in safety of ships. For nearly a year and a half following its commissioning in 1953, Bold was used for testing and evaluation purposes in the Chesapeake Bay area and in Long Island Sound. These evaluations resulted in an extensive modification period which resulted in the ship not reporting to the Atlantic Mine Force in Charleston, South Carolina until 1955.
Bold conducted two Mediterranean cruises in 1955 and 1957, with an intervening overhaul in Charleston. Working with the US and NATO allies, Bold made port visits and preformed training evolutions near Spain, Italy and Greece. Returning to the United States, Bold served as a mine warfare training ship in Yorktown, Virginia. Further upkeep followed, and the ship resumed operations out of Charleston, where it remained through the end of the decade.
After an extensive overhaul in Norfolk, the ship returned to Atlantic coast training duties, including stints as a training vessel in Key West and the Caribbean. The late 1960s found the vessel providing training exercises in the American southern cities of Charleston and Savannah, Georgia.
In 1967 the minesweeper returned to the Mediterranean, where it roamed throughout the region, conducting training evolutions with other NATO fleets, operated with the US Sixth Fleet, and made port visits to various ports-of-call.
Bold continued to operate along the southeastern United States until 1970 when the ship was finally designated for inactivation. Although Bold conducted extensive training for the United States and allied navies, it spent its entire operational career without ever sweeping a hostile mine. Decommissioned in 1971, Bold was placed in reserve until 1975, when the ship was stricken from the naval register. The hull was sold to private interests in 1981, its ultimate fate remains unknown.
Asbestos Exposure on U.S.S. Bold
U.S.S. Bold was built at a time when the use of asbestos on Navy ships was mandated by specifications and rampant amongst shipbuilders. Prized for its superior performance as an insulating material, asbestos was used in a wide variety of applications in the construction of ships.
In addition to its extensive use in engineering and machinery spaces, asbestos was used to insulate pipes that ran throughout the vessel. Asbestos insulation was present in virtually every space, and frequently in hard to reach or see areas. During normal ship operations, these pipes would flex and bend, greatly increasing the chances of damage to the insulation or the paint with which it was covered. Exposed or damaged asbestos would release asbestos fibers into the air, where it would be dispersed throughout the ship by ventilators and by contact with clothes.
Serious efforts to reduce the use of asbestos and control its removal from naval vessels did not begin until the late 1970s, nearly a decade after the U.S.S. Bold was removed from active service. Asbestos exposure on U.S.S. Bold was highly likely, given the ship’s heavy operational schedule during its service life.