Built for the U.S. Army Transportation Corps by the Bethlehem Shipbuilding Corporation in 1944, the SS Hagerstown Victory was responsible for transporting cargo during World War II. The ship was laid down under the Emergency Shipbuilding program and served in the European Theatre of Operations. It was operated by the Calmar SS Company and was named after the Hagerstown city of Maryland. The SS Hagerstown Victory was one of the 95 cargo Victory ships which were subsequently converted to troopships. In 1970, the SS Hagerstown Victory was sold to Trans World Shipping Ltd. of Panama and renamed SS Julep, following which it was sunk in Typhoon Patsy.
Asbestos, a naturally occurring mineral that is dangerous to human health, was present in large amounts on the ship. Asbestos exposure occurs when a person breathes in or swallows asbestos fibers from the air which, in the U.S. Navy, would be released by various work activities. The areas of the ship with the most severe asbestos exposure were the damage control room, the pump room, the engine room, and the propulsion room. Over time, asbestos exposure can lead to the development of serious diseases, such as lung cancer.