The USS Cheleb (AK-138) was a cargo ship belonging to the Crater-class in the service of the US Navy in World War II. The USS Cheleb was laid down on 29 December 1943 as liberty ship “SS Lyman J. Gage”. It was commissioned on 1 January 1944 under Lieutenant Addison E. McKimmey’s command. Throughout the war, the ship carried cargo intended for use in different assaults. After the war, the USS Cheleb sailed to Pearl Harbor and remained there until it was decommissioned on 25 July 1946. Later, it was used for a special explosives test and sold for scrapping on 27 March 1978.
Unfortunately, because the ship was built prior to the 1980s, before the dangers of asbestos exposure became widely known, it was full of asbestos-containing materials. The toxic material was cheap and resistant, it made a good insulation, fireproofing and building material so it was used in nearly every part of the ship. This put the ship's crew at high risk of later developing serious asbestos-related conditions. Veterans who got sick because of military asbestos exposure are eligible for free health care and other VA benefits.