USS Regulus AF 57 (Store Ship)
The Oregon Shipbuilding Corporation constructed USS Regulus in Portland, OR, as a Victory ship during the Second World War, delivering the vessel as the Escanaba Victory in the spring of 1944. The ship remained the property of the Maritime Commission, and its successor, the Maritime Administration, until 1952, when the US Navy acquired the vessel and had it converted to a store ship at Todd Shipyard in Brooklyn, NY. In 1954 the vessel was commissioned into the Navy, with the name Regulus, designated AF 57.
The ship’s mission was the delivery of refrigerated stores, other stores, and general cargo to fleet units operating overseas and to extended bases, such as Sasebo, Japan and other advanced areas.
Regulus spent its career with the Pacific Fleet, throughout the remainder of the 1950’s operating out of San Francisco. The ship conducted both underway replenishments and delivered supplies to bases in the Philippines and Japan, eventually including Australia and Indochina as ports-of-call. In 1957 Regulus transported art from Korea for exhibition in the United States.
In the early 1960’s, as American involvement in Vietnam grew, the ship made numerous trips across the Pacific to delivery perishables and dry goods to units deployed there. In 1965, Regulus had a helicopter flight deck installed, allowing the ship to support units at sea and ashore with replenishment from the air.
The remainder of the 1960’s found the ship supporting the Seventh Fleet operating in Vietnamese waters, providing food, clothing, medicinal supplies and general cargo to the units there. Underway replenishment of ships, a demanding and exacting operation under any circumstances, became routine.
As the 1970’s began, American involvement in Vietnam began to wind down, although the routing for Regulus did not. Except for its regular overhauls, and time in port for the loading of cargo, Regulus remained at sea accomplishing the mission for which it had been acquired nearly twenty years earlier.
In 1971, a massive Typhoon, named Rose, threatened units operating in the South China Sea. Regulus sought shelter from the storm in harbor at Hong Kong. During the storm the ship dragged its anchors, eventually striking a reef from which it could not dislodge itself. Throughout the remainder of the storm the ship was battered against the reef.
For several weeks following the storm, attempts to refloat the vessel were unsuccessful. After a salvage team inspected the ship the decision was made that the damage was too extensive to warrant further attempts to refloat and repair the ship. Decommissioned and abandoned in September, 1971, the ship was eventually scrapped.
Asbestos Exposure on USS Regulus
As with any ship built during the 1940’s, numerous materials containing asbestos materials were used in the construction of USS Regulus. In addition to the use of asbestos in boilers and boiler linings, as well as its use as insulation for pipes throughout the ship, asbestos was present in materials in virtually every compartment.
Asbestos was used in gaskets, seals and pipe mud, deck tiles, overhead tiles, fireproofing, brake linings for winch brakes, capstans, electrical distribution panels, electrical wiring insulation and ventilation dampers. Diesel engine exhausts vents were lined with asbestos. As the materials used in any of these applications deteriorated, as a result of heavy use as well as the harsh environment aboard any operating ship, the asbestos could become friable, releasing particles into the air. Through ventilation and contact with clothing, these fibers would be carried and dispersed throughout the ship.