U.S.S. Mark (AKL-12)
Mark was a small freighter originally built for the U.S. Army. She served during WWII and was transferred to the U.S. Navy afterwards. She went on to fight in the Viet Nam war before being transferred to the Taiwanese Navy.
Design and Construction
Mark was laid down as FS-214 for the U.S. Army in 1943 at Higgins Industries in Avondale, LA. She was built as an aircraft repair vessel for what was then the U.S. Army Air Force. The ship was launched in December 1944.
U.S. Army Service
As FS-214, the ship served in the later days of the Pacific War. On 13 April 1945, one of her diesel engines suffered an explosion. Her chief engineer, a civilian merchantman named Albert M. Boe, stayed in her engine room to shut down and secure the engine, likely saving the ship. In the process, Boe was mortally wounded. A Liberty ship was named in his honor. FS-214 was later named Colonel Raymond T. Lester. She remained in Army service until 30 September 1947, when she was transferred to the U.S. Navy.
U.S. Navy Service
The ship was commissioned as U.S.S. Mark (AGL-143) on 2 December 1947. She served as a ferry between Naval Stations Subic Bay and Sangley Point in the Philippines until 13 March 1949, when she was redesignated (AKL-12). Mark joined the service division of the Seventh Fleet at this time and began delivery of passengers and cargo to ships at port in Subic Bay. She was placed out of service in 1956, but she continued in her role as a light cargo ship for the Navy.
Mark began visiting Viet Nam on a regular basis in 1963. As U.S. involvement increased, so did Mark’s duties, and on 1 October 1965 she returned to commissioned naval service. Shortly thereafter, she began a survey of the Mekong River delta to assess its suitability as a base of operations for U.S. Navy patrol craft heading upriver. Her sweep confirmed outdated French charts and allowed the Navy to set up bases in the delta. For the remainder of her U.S. Navy career, Mark ferried supplies from bases in Saigon and Vung Tau to riverine outposts up and down the Mekong River. She operated almost continuously from 1966 to 1971, stopping only once for an overhaul. During her runs up the river, she often came under enemy fire. She took a direct hit from a rocket on 20 February 1968 that damaged her hull and wounded twelve of her sailors. The ship was awarded a Naval Unit Commendation for her tireless efforts to resupply the “brown water” navy.
Mark was decommissioned on 1 July 1971 and transferred to the Taiwanese Navy, where she served as an intelligence-gathering ship until 1976. Her disposition since then is unknown.
Risk of Asbestos Exposure
The U.S. Navy required the use of asbestos insulation on all steam-powered vessels in its service after a tragic fire aboard the ocean-liner Morro Castle in 1934. Regulations restricting asbestos use were not implemented until the mid-1970s. Mark was built well within this timeframe, but she was powered by diesel engines. Therefore, she would not have had the mass quantities of asbestos insulation that steamships of this area did. Asbestos was also used in deck tile and as an insulator for other shipboard devices, however, so it is likely that some of the substance was present aboard Mark.
Asbestos can break down into tiny fibers when subjected to damage or wear and tear. These fibers are easily inhaled by anyone aboard and can spread through a ship’s ventilation system. Inhalation of asbestos is a proven cause of mesothelioma, a malignant cancer of the lung. There is no cure for mesothelioma, but common cancer treatments can be used to fight the disease.
If you, a loved one, or someone you know served aboard Mark or worked on her in a shipyard and has contracted mesothelioma, please fill out the form at the bottom of this page. You will be sent free information regarding your rights to compensation.