As a Greenville Victory cargo ship, the USNS Private John R. Towle was built in 1944 under the name of SS Appleton Victory by the Oregon Shipbuilding Corporation. It was commissioned in 1946, after it was acquired by the U.S. Navy, and underwent a name change. The ship operated along the Pacific coast for a year during World War II. The crew of the ship earned multiple awards and honors, such as the National Defense Service Medal, the Antarctica Service Medal, and several battle stars for their outstanding work. In 1982, the USNS Private John R. Towle was sold for scrapping to the Andy Machinery Company.
Asbestos was heavily employed by the U.S. Navy during the last century and nearly all the ships contained asbestos products. The USNS Private John R. Towle is no exception, as there were over 300 dangerous products on it while it was operating. Asbestos exposure, particularly if it occurs over the course of several years, can cause serious diseases such as lung cancer and mesothelioma. Everyone who served on the ship needs to periodically undergo medical examinations, as they are at high risk of developing a disease as a consequence of military asbestos exposure.