U.S.S. Kishwaukee (AOG-9)
During the early days of World War Two, aviation gasoline and fuel for motorized vehicles was often delivered by lashing barrels to the decks of whatever ships were available. As American forces advanced the need for deliveries of several types of fuels increased. The need for tankers continued to increase throughout the war.
Built in Savage MN by Cargill Incorporated, Kishwaukee was a Patapsco class tanker designed to meet the needs of the expanding fleet and military operations in the Pacific. Kishwaukee entered service in May 1944, arriving in Pearl Harbor on August 10. It operated in and around the Hawaiian Islands for the next two months before carrying fuel westward to support operations in the Philippines.
After providing station refueling off Leyte, Kishwaukee remained in the western Pacific, providing fuel in operations in the Caroline Islands. In March of 1945, the ship joined operations at Okinawa where it remained on station despite the continuous threat from Kamikaze attacks. It remained at Okinawa until late 1945, entering port in Sasebo, Japan in December. It remained in the Far East as a station tanker until July 1946, when it returned to San Pedro, California.
For the rest of the decade, Kishwaukee operated with the Pacific fleet, supporting fleet operations in the mid-Pacific and the Far East. At the onset of the Korean Conflict, the ship supplied fuel and aviation gasoline to advance bases in the combat area and operated as a station tanker in Japanese waters.
Throughout the fifties, Kishwaukee supported fleet operations in the Pacific. In late 1957 the ship entered port in Astoria, Oregon. The following spring it was decommissioned in Seattle, Washington and transferred to the mothball fleet.
Reactivated during the Vietnam crisis, Kishwaukee returned to Pearl Harbor in October 1966. From there, the ship sailed to Vietnamese waters, transporting aviation fuel in support of naval air strikes. Operating out of Da Nang and Subic Bay in the Philippines, Kishwaukee earned seven campaign stars for its service in the Vietnam War, to complement the two battle stars for its World War Two service.
In January 1970 Kishwaukee was again decommissioned and laid up in Hawaii. Struck from the Naval Register in 1974, the ship was sold in 1978 and converted to a fishing vessel. It was scrapped in 1997 in Shanghai, China.
Asbestos Exposure on U.S.S. Kishwaukee
As with all ships constructed contemporaneously, Kishwaukee was built using asbestos in a large variety of materials. Because of the vital need to control shipboard fires, asbestos was used in insulating materials around pipes, in deck materials, as a lining for bulkheads, and in false overheads. Fire curtains and blankets, deployed to prevent spreading in the event of a fire, contained asbestos. Turbines, electrical wiring and connectors, and generators were likely to contain asbestos as well.
Flexure and vibration of piping during normal ship operations would cause the release of asbestos fibers into the air, to be blown about the ship by the ventilation system. Normal deterioration of materials caused by the harsh environment encountered by long periods at sea released fibers as well. Repair and replacement of damaged insulating materials or gaskets did likewise.
Ending its operational service in 1970, Kishwaukee’s career preceded any serious asbestos abatement and removal procedures.