U.S.S. Patapsco (AOG-1)

Patapsco was the lead ship of the Patapsco-class of gasoline tankers. She served with the U.S. Navy during WWII, the Korean War, and the Viet Nam War.

Design and Construction

Patapsco was the first tanker of her type made for the Navy. Her construction reflected the Navy’s increased need of high-octane gasoline as carrier planes and PT-boats became necessities of war in the Pacific Theater. Her small size and draft allowed her to access coastal waters and rivers where gasoline-burning patrol craft operated. She was laid down at the Seattle-Tacoma Shipbuilding Co. on 25 May 1942 and commissioned 4 February 1943.

Service

Almost immediately, Patapsco was sent to Pearl Harbor for wartime service. She sailed for New Caledonia in the South Pacific on 27 March. Except for a brief period at Auckland, New Zealand, the ship sailed from bases in the South Pacific to the embattled Solomons Islands until 12 May 1945, providing crucial supplies of gasoline and lubricants to keep allied planes flying and patrol boats sailing. After this, she shifted her port to Ulithi, the primary forward base for allied naval vessels in the Central Pacific. Patapsco continued her tanker duties until 19 February 1946, when she sailed for New Orleans for decommissioning.

The tanker was brought back into service on 19 October 1950 for the Korean War. After an overhaul at Norfolk, Virginia, Patapsco headed back to the Pacific. She made port at Pearl Harbor on 9 April 1951 and began transporting fuel to nearby Midway Island. On 23 February 1952 she sailed for Japan, arriving on 25 April after a brief stop in the Marshall Islands. She ferried fuel and other petroleum products from Japan to U.S. carriers off the coast of Korea until 6 August 1953, when she made a fuel delivery to Saigon, Viet Nam, a glimpse into her future. Patapsco returned to Pearl Harbor on 7 December 1953. The tanker operated in and around Hawaii until 2 March 1955, when she sailed for Oregon and her second decommissioning.

The Navy seemed ready to give Patapsco up for good when she was struck from the Navy register on 1 July 1960. A new crisis was brewing in Viet Nam, however, and as the navy became more involved, the need for tankers that could bring diesel, gasoline, and jet fuel to bases along the coast and up the Mekong River grew. Patapsco returned to U.S. Naval service one last time on 18 June 1966. After refit and training at Pearl Harbor, she sailed for Vietnamese waters, arriving in October. She operated from Da Nang and Hue until 17 February 1967, when she returned to Pearl Harbor for repairs.

Patapsco returned to Viet Nam for her second tour in October, operating in the Da Nang area until 25 April 1968. After another upkeep period at Pearl Harbor, the tanker sailed for her final tour on 11 November. She returned from Viet Nam in 1969, and operated out of Pearl Harbor until 1974

Fate

The veteran tanker was decommissioned on 1 August 1974 and struck from the Naval Register for good. She was sold to the Mid-Pacific Sea Harvesters company on 18 December 1979 and converted to a factory trawler. She operates from Seattle to this day.

Risk of Asbestos Exposure

Built during WWII, Patapsco was laid down during the height of asbestos use in naval construction. Asbestos is mostly used to insulate the engine rooms of steam-powered ships, but even vessels with diesel power like this tanker can contain some asbestos, usually in deck tiles and machinery.
Asbestos products release tiny fibers when worn down or damaged. These fibers are easy for sailors and shipyard workers to inhale and can spread rapidly throughout the ship via ventilation shafts. Inhalation of asbestos is a proven cause of mesothelioma, a malignant cancer of the lungs. While there is no cure for mesothelioma, common cancer treatments can be used to fight it.

If you or someone you know served aboard Patapsco 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

  • http://www.ibiblio.org/hyperwar/USN/ships/dafs/AOG/aog1.html

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