Asbestos Exposure on President Jackson-Class Attack Transports
The seven attack transports in the President Jackson class served during World War II. As with all attack transports, their purpose was to transport troops and military equipment and to execute amphibious invasions on hostile shores. These ships were equipped with landing craft for that purpose and with anti-aircraft weapons to protect the troops and cargo they carried into battle zones.
History of President Jackson-Class Vessels
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These ships’ design was based on the Maritime Commission’s Type C-3 hull, a design which was finalized in the late 1930s. The seven ships of the President Jackson class were laid down between October 1939 and December 1940 in Newport, Virginia, originally intended for commercial use by American President Lines. The ship builder was Newport News Shipbuilding and Drydock Company.
Before the shipbuilding was complete, the Maritime Commission acquired the vessels for military service. However, only 5 were assigned to the Navy, converted into attack transports, and assigned APA hull numbers at the time. The remaining two ships were transferred to the Navy in 1943.
During the war, five of the ships served in the Pacific Theater exclusively. The remaining two were utilized in Operation Torch, the Allied invasion of North Africa. One of those two ships subsequently executed landings in Sicily, Normandy, and Italy in the European Theater and also participated in the Battle of Okinawa in the Pacific Theater.
When the war ended the President Jackson class ships were assigned to transport troops for occupation duties in Japan, China, and Korea and then assigned to Operation Magic Carpet, the massive effort to return demobilizing servicemen to the United States.
Only two of these transports were decommissioned after Operation Magic Carpet. The others were used for transport missions until the early 1950s and two served in the Korean War. However, by mid-1955 the last ship in the President Jackson class had been decommissioned.
Vessels of the President Jackson Class
The seven vessels in the President Jackson attack transport class were:
- APA-18: USS President Jackson was launched on June 7, 1940, acquired by the Navy on June 30, 1941, and commissioned on January 16, 1942. She served in numerous campaigns in the Pacific Theater and occupation services in the Far East during and after WWII as well as in the Korean War. She earned 8 battle stars for WWII and 4 battle stars for Korea.
- (APA-19 APA-38): USS President Adams earned 9 battle stars for service in World War II. She was launched on June 31, 1941, delivered to the Navy on June 5, 1941, and commissioned on November 19, 1941. She served exclusively in the Pacific Theater during the war and in occupation services in the Far East after the war. President Adams was decommissioned on June 14, 1950 in San Francisco, CA.
- APA-20: USS President Hayes served in the Pacific Theater during the war, including in Guadalcanal, New Georgia, and the Marianas. She was launched October 4, 1940, acquired by the Navy July 7, 1941, and commissioned December 15, 1941. She earned 7 battle stars for service in WWII.
- APA-29: USS Thomas Stone served on only one mission. She was assigned to Operation Torch, the invasion of North Africa, during which she was bombed, torpedoed, and run aground. The ship was decommissioned on April 1, 1944 because of damage sustained, struck from the Naval Register a week later, and sold for scrap. Thomas Stone earned one battle star in World War II.
- APA-30: USS Thomas Jefferson was assigned to the Allied invasion of North Africa (Operation Torch), along with the USS Thomas Stone, as her first combat mission. She went on to participate in the European Theater with landings in Sicily, Italy, and Normandy and in the Battle of Okinawa in the Pacific Theater. She also served in a number of Korean War campaigns. Thomas Jefferson received a total of 11 battle stars.
- AP-103: USS President Polk was acquired from American President Lines by the War Shipping Administration on May 12, 1941 and launched June 28, 1941. She was transferred to the Navy on September 6, 1943 and commissioned on October 4, 1943. She served in a number of operations in the Pacific Theater, including the Gilbert Islands, Marshall Islands, Marianas, Luzon, Iwo Jima, and Manila-Bicol. She earned 6 battle stars for WWII service. USS President Polk was decommissioned and returned to American President Lines on January 26, 1946.
- AP-104: USS President Monroe was on her maiden voyage around the world when Japan attacked Pearl Harbor. She was immediately acquired by the War Shipping Administration and outfitted for military service. On January 12, 1942 she departed San Francisco in a convoy of other troopships – the first large convoy to Australia and the South Pacific after Pearl Harbor. Monroe landed 660 troops, a pursuit squadron, and an air warning company at Suva on January 29, 1942. She participated in the Gilbert Islands invasion, Marshall Islands operations, and the invasion of Guam, as well as Magic Carpet, the massive operation to return demobilizing servicemen home.
President Jackson-Class Technical Specifications
Specifications of President Jackson-class transports include:
- Displacement: 10,000-15,000 tons
- Length: 450-500 ft.
- Beam: 60-70 ft.
- Draft: 25-30 ft.
- Speed: 16.5 to 18.5 knots
- Capacity: 75-150 officers; 1,200-2,500 enlisted
- Cargo: 185,000 cu ft.; 2,500-3,600 short tons
- Complement: 30-60 officers; 440-550 enlisted
- Armament (on most ships): 4 x 3”/50 caliber dual-purpose guns; 2 x twin 40mm guns; 18 x single 20mm guns
- Propulsion: 1 geared turbine; 2 boilers; 1 propeller (8500 shp)
President Jackson-class Transports and Asbestos Exposure
Of the many World War II legacies, one that is often overlooked is veteran asbestos exposure. The shipbuilding capacity of the United States during WWII reached the greatest level in world history. In some shipyards, as many as 3 new ships were hitting the water each day.
Asbestos and asbestos products were specific by the Navy for new vessels. Used primarily as a heat-resistant and fireproofing material, asbestos had hundreds of different uses on Navy ships, from turbine and boiler insulation to pump and valve gaskets to construction materials and much more.
Over the course of WWII some 25 million tons of asbestos were mixed into Navy ships, putting at risk the health of shipyard workers and sailors alike. Indeed, Navy veterans as a group have one of the highest rates of the asbestos cancer mesothelioma, which develops decades after asbestos exposure. Navy occupations with high rates of mesothelioma, lung cancer and asbestosis include insulators, boiler mechanics, carpenters, machinists, painters and joiners.
The companies that supplied the Navy with asbestos did not warn about its toxicity, leading to an entirely preventable epidemic of asbestos disease. Veterans who developed asbestos diseases are now holding these companies liable through lawsuits that seek compensation for medical bills, lost productivity, and other losses.
Belluck & Fox, LLP is a New York law firm that specializes in asbestos litigation. Our nationally-recognized mesothelioma attorneys have achieved notable success in Navy veteran asbestos lawsuits and take pride in serving those who served our country.
Learn how Belluck & Fox, LLP helps veterans and their families during a complimentary case review.
- NavSource.org: Attack Transport (APA)
- NavSource Online: USS President Polk (AP 103)