The USS Cleveland was constructed by the Ingalls Shipbuilding Co. out of Pascagoula, Mississippi. She is a transport dock of the Austin-class with 9,734 tons of displacement. After her launch on May 7th, 1966, she was commissioned and assigned to the Pacific Fleet on April 21st, 1967. At the present, she is one of the oldest ships currently still in operation in the United States Navy. The only older ships are the USS Constitution and the USS Enterprise.
Service in Vietnam and the Middle East
Upon completion of her shakedown voyage and training, the Cleveland was stationed in San Diego as part of the Amphibious Force. In 1967, the Cleveland was ordered to Haiphong Harbor, where she was to participate in the Tet Offensive of the Vietnam War. There, she joined TF 78 in a minesweeping operation and conducted several landing operations. In November of 1988, she also assisted with the cleanup of the Exxon Valdez oil spill.
The 1990’s saw the Cleveland sailing to the middle east, where she was deployed in various operations during Operation Desert Storm and Operation Desert Shield. After completion of these missions, she was sent back to the Pacific Ocean and supported the U.N. aid efforts in Rwanda. After Iraq invaded Kuwait, she was assigned to Operation Vigilant Warrior, which was designed to prevent another invasion of Kuwait.
In June of 1998, the USS Cleveland participated in a RIMPAC, which is a joint naval exercise between the United States and Russian forces. She then headed back to the mideast, where she was a member of various exercises that were designed to support sanctions against Iraq. The Cleveland was also one of the first amphibious ships to be present at MIO (Marine Interdiction Op).
With the beginning of the new millennium, the Cleveland was required to perform some special duties; this time helping in the recovery and rescue operation of survivors from Alaska Airlines Flight #261. For her work there, she received a Coast Guard Commendation.
After a visit to California in March of 2001, the Cleveland was stationed on the west coast. She is still active today, although her decommissioning is planned for the year 2011.
Asbestos in Navy Ships
Although an essential component of the naval fleet, some auxiliary vessels also posed a lasting health risk to soldiers serving on them. Unfortunately, products containing asbestos were common, especially on older ships, because of the material’s high resistance to heat and fire. Despite its value as an insulator, asbestos fiber intake can lead to several serious health consequences, including mesothelioma, a devastating cancer without cure. Current and former military personnel who came into contact with these ships should seek immediate medical attention in order to detect possible health consequences associated with asbestos exposure.