U.S.S. Midway CV 41 (Aircraft Carrier)
Built during World War Two by the Newport News Shipbuilding and Drydock Company, Midway was the first aircraft carrier to be commissioned after that conflict, entering the naval service in September 1945. During its long career, the ship would participate in operations during the Vietnam War, the evacuation of Saigon, and Operation Desert Storm.
Initial operations in the Atlantic included the successful launch of a captured German V-2 rocket, the first such from the deck of a moving ship. From 1945 to 1954 Midway operated in the Caribbean, the North Atlantic, the Mediterranean and US home waters conducting training, diplomatic and fleet exercise missions. Midway was instrumental in the testing and evaluation of new Navy aircraft during this period.
Deployed to the Pacific in 1954, Midway operated with the 7th fleet in the Far East before entering Puget Sound Naval Shipyard in 1955 for modernization. The overhaul, which included changes to the ship’s bow and installation of an angled flight deck, lasted fifteen months and resulted in making Midway less stable in heavy seas.
After deployments in the Pacific alternating with periods in port, Midway underwent a second rebuilding, starting in the fall of 1966. Lasting until early 1970, and with cost overruns so extensive they necessitated the cancellation of a similar rebuild of U.S.S. Franklin D. Roosevelt, Midway demonstrated a significant deterioration of its stability and seakeeping ability in heavy seas.
In the seventies, Midway deployed to Vietnam, with aviators from its air groups being awarded the first air-to-air kills by American pilots in that war. Coincidentally its aviators would also be awarded the last of the war.
After American involvement in Vietnam ended, Midway, now based in Yokosuka Japan, steamed to support the evacuation when the North Vietnamese took Saigon.
Midway shifted to the Indian Ocean in 1979, and was present in the Arabian Sea and Persian Gulf during the overthrow of the Shah of Iran and during the hostage crisis. Throughout the 1980s Midway served in the Pacific. In the middle of the decade, blisters were added to the ships hull in the hope of improving its stability, an operation which made the matter worse in heavy seas.
Midway returned to the mideast waters in support of Operation Desert Storm, one of six US Navy carriers to launch sorties during the opening of that attack. After the success of that operation Midway conducted one final deployment in the western Pacific before being deactivated and decommissioned. The ship is now a museum in San Diego.
Asbestos Exposure on U.S.S. Midway
During its construction and throughout its career, during which it underwent two major rebuilding, three different shipyards used asbestos-containing materials on Midway. Primarily used for thermal insulation, asbestos materials were used extensively in the engineering spaces, in gaskets for watertight doors and hatches, in ventilation system flappers, and as fireproofing for bulkheads and decks. Lagging for pipes was routinely made of asbestos cloth, which, although painted, could often vibrate loose and be releases into the air as dust. Asbestos laden pipe lagging could be found in virtually all spaces of the ship.
Poor ventilation in many spaces aboard Midway would have allowed asbestos dust to settle in those spaces, to be picked up and distributed elsewhere by clothing, or even by cleaning tools. Midway was a notoriously poor sea boat in heavy weather throughout its career, the rough ride it took would increase the likelihood of exposed asbestos fibers being released into the air.
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