The USS Kemper County (LST-854) was an LST-542-class tank landing ship built for the United States Navy during World War II. It was laid down as USS LST-854 by the Chicago Bridge & Iron Company of Seneca, Illinois on 30 August 1944; launched on 20 November; and commissioned on 14 December with Lieutenant E. J. Robeson in command. On January 15, 1945, the ship left New Orleans for the Pacific Ocean. On April 1, it arrived at Ulithi, Caroline Islands, via the Panama Canal and Pearl Harbor. On 12 April, with an Army Aviation Engineer Battalion on board, it headed towards Okinawa, the vital island in the heart of the Japanese Empire. It was awarded one battle star for WWII service, five battle stars for Korean War duty, one Navy Unit Commendation, and six campaign stars for Vietnam War service. Those in the Navy who assisted in repairing or renovating ships often inhaled asbestos fibers. As the ships aged, the asbestos components grew brittle and the fibers dispersed into the air. Sailors onboard ships often slept on bunks underneath asbestos-covered pipes, waking up coated in asbestos dust. Those working below deck were, particularly at risk. At the highest risk were boiler tenders, shipfitters, welders, and engine technicians.