The world now knows the health hazard to sailors posed by the USS America and asbestos. That knowledge, though, was in the future when the aircraft carrier the USS America (CVA-66, CV-66) was ordered for the U.S. Navy on November 25, 1960. Her keel was laid down at Newport News Shipbuilding and Dry Dock Company on January 9, 1961. She was launched on February 1, 1964, and commissioned on January 23, 1965, under the command of Captain Lawrence Heyworth, Jr.
The USS America and Asbestos: An Illustrious Career Before the Danger Was Discovered
The America’s first deployment was to the Mediterranean in 1965. She sailed to Livorno, Cannes, Genoa, Toulon, Athens, Istanbul, Beirut, Valletta, Taranto, Palma, and Pollensa Bay. She also participated in the international exercise Fairgame IV, which simulated warfare against a country who invaded a NATO ally. Upon returning to the United States and proceeding to Guantanamo Bay for training, she was damaged by Hurricane Inez.
The USS America was deployed again on January 10, 1967, when she relieved the USS Independence at Pollensa Bay. She participated in several more international naval exercises. There were several accidents during training, and five planes had been lost by March 1967.
In April, civil war was looming in Greece. The America stood by as the flagship of Rear Admiral Dick H. Guinn, Commander, Task Force 65, ready to evacuate American citizens in the event of violence. When tensions cooled off without the need to evacuate, the carrier sailed off to Italy.
By May, tensions in the Middle East were building, and the USS America joined the carrier the USS Saratoga and TG 60.2 in the Sea of Crete. She conducted training operations and hosted media correspondents. Early in June, the Task Group was harassed by a Soviet destroyer that was armed with surface-to-air missiles, and Vice Admiral William I. Martin had to send the ship a warning.
On June 8, Israeli torpedo boats and jet fighters attacked the technical research ship the USS Liberty. The Liberty lost 34 men and had 75 others injured. The USS America sent one of her medical officers and two corpsmen to aid the ship and took 50 wounded and nine dead aboard. The Arabs charged that the fleet’s aircraft were covering for Israeli ground forces during the Six-Day War, but the media were presented with copies of the flight plans to refute this charge. The media left after the cease-fire came and the fleet was no longer harassed by Soviet ships.
Following the cease-fire, the USS America took part in training exercises and visited various ports along the Mediterranean. She returned to Norfolk Naval Shipyard on October 6, 1967 before participating in more training, drills, exercises, and inspections, including Exercise Rugby Match.
The USS America in Vietnam
The America sailed for Vietnam in the spring of 1968 and spent 112 days on the line at Yankee Station. The ship’s first MiG kill in the Vietnam War took place on July 10, 1968. When her mission at Yankee Station came to a close, she crossed the equator on November 9, initiating 993 “pollywogs.” She sailed back to Jacksonville, Florida, in January 1969 before heading up to the Norfolk Naval Shipyard for a nine-month overhaul. She participated in a number of training operations before returning to Vietnam in the spring of 1970.
The USS America spent another 100 days at Yankee Station. When not on the line, she engaged in a number of training and defense exercises. On August 20, 1970, the carrier received President of the Philippines Ferdinand Marcos and his wife at Manila. After her fifth and final line sojourn, the America boasted not a single combat loss and only one major landing accident; there were no fatalities.
On her way home, the USS America greeted the United States ambassador to Australia and celebrated two Thanksgivings as she crossed the International Date Line. After a brief stay at Norfolk, the carrier again participated in naval exercises, including National Week X, National Week XI, and Exotic Dancer V.
The USS America headed back to Vietnam in June 1972. A fire broke out in the number two catapult spaces on November 19, 1972, but the damage was quickly brought under control and the carrier remained on the line. She headed back home on February 17, 1973. The America earned five battle stars for her Vietnam War service.
The America once again resumed training operations and exercises around the world until 1976, when hostilities broke out in Lebanon. There, she stood by to support the evacuation of American citizens after the U.S. ambassador to Lebanon was assassinated on June 13, 1976. She then returned to her usual training exercises and carrier qualifications.
The America passed through the Suez Canal on October 21, 1981, after the assassination of Egyptian President Anwar Sadat. The Egyptian government provided security for her and the passage was made without incident.
In January 1983, the America relieved the USS Nimitz in support of the multinational peacekeeping force off the coast of Lebanon. After her time there, she again sailed the world carrying out training operations and exercises until she was ordered to Libya in early 1986. She remained there to join in Operation El Dorado Canyon on April 14, 1986. After leaving the area for training exercises and overhaul, the returned in 1989 to evacuate the American Embassy in Lebanon.
The End of the USS America
The USS America also served in Operation Desert Shield, Operation Desert Storm, and peacekeeping efforts over Bosnia, Operation Southern Watch, and several more training exercises before she was decommissioned on August 9, 1996. She was initially going to be sold for scrap, but instead she was chosen to serve as a target for firing exercises. She was sunk on May 14, 2005, off the coast of North Carolina.
The USS America and Asbestos
Like all other ships built before the 1970s and 1980s, the USS America was constructed using a number of asbestos-containing components. Because asbestos was known for its resistance to heat, fire, water, and corrosion, it was used in virtually all areas of the ship as well as in the aircraft she carried.
Anyone who worked on or around the USS America was put at risk for developing deadly asbestos-related illnesses like mesothelioma. Unfortunately, asbestos and the USS America go hand in hand. Even family members of those exposed to asbestos are at risk due to secondhand exposure.
What to Do Now About the USS America and Asbestos Exposure
If you are concerned about past service on the USS America and asbestos exposure, seek a medical evaluation. USS America workers and their families should monitor their health carefully and consult a doctor if they experience any symptoms associated with mesothelioma and asbestos exposure generally. Anyone who may have been exposed to asbestos from the USS America, either directly or secondhand, and is diagnosed with mesothelioma or other asbestos-related diseases should contact a lawyer.
The Nemeroff Law Firm handles mesothelioma and asbestos exposure cases nationwide and would be happy to advise you concerning the USS America and asbestos-related conditions such as mesothelioma. You can use our free case evaluation form or call our toll-free number, 866-342-1929.