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U.S.S. Bolster (ARS-38)

Bolster was a Diver-class salvage ship built during WWII. She served in that war, as well as the Korean and Vietnamese conflicts.


She was laid down 20 July 1944 by the Basalt Rock Co. of Napa, CA. She commissioned 1 May 1945.


Bolster took up repair duty along the west coast until 18 July, when she sailed for Pearl Harbor. She stayed there until Japan surrendered on 15 August, when she sailed for Yokosuka. She repaired and salvaged damaged and sunken ships from both sides there, returning to Hawaii in April 1947. She began regular operations, sailing from Pearl Harbor and Adak, AK. On 22 August 1950, she towed barges to Sasebo, Japan and began operating in the Korean War.
Bolster was on hand for the ups and the downs of U.S. operations in Korea. She took part in the assault on Inchon on 15 September, and on 9 December, she sailed to Hungnam to evacuate U.S. soldiers in the wake of a massive Chinese counter-offensive. The ship remained in Korea until the ceasefire was called in 1953. She then returned to Pearl Harbor and took up routine operations. While on deployment in November 1962, she assisted Reclaimer in the salvage of Han Ra San, a Korean patrol vessel sunk at Guam in a typhoon.

In March 1966, Bolster arrived in Viet Nam. Her small size and shallow draft allowed her to operate in the inland waters and coastal areas of the country. On 16 November 1967, Clark County, an LST (landing ship tank), was caught in rough tides near Duc Pho and ran aground. Stuck fast and flooding, the ship required the pulling power of several ships, including Bolster, which sent some of her crew ashore to assist the LST directly. Sixteen days later, the job was done, and the LST rejoined service not long after.

The salvage ship remained in Viet Nam until the end of U.S. participation in 1973. Afterwards, she returned to the west coast, operating from San Francisco and Long Beach.


After a long, successful career, Bolster was decommissioned on 24 September 1994. Towed to the reserve fleet at Suisun Bay, she sat there until 12 April 2011, when she was sold for scrapping.

Risk of Asbestos Exposure

Bolster was a diesel-powered vessel. Therefore, she did not contain the heavy amounts of asbestos insulation that her steam-powered counterparts did. In her long service life, however, the ship and her crew had contact with numerous ships, many of them steamers. Asbestos could have easily contaminated her crew in these situations.
Asbestos products break down into tiny fibers when worn or damaged. These fibers can spread easily through the air and are easy to inhale. Inhalation of asbestos is a proven cause of mesothelioma, a malignant cancer of the lung. There is no cure for mesothelioma, but treatments such as chemotherapy can be employed to fight the disease.

If you or someone you know served aboard Bolster 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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