USS Edson DD-946 (1958-1988)
The Edson was a United States Navy Forrest Sherman-class destroyer. The warship was 418 feet long and had a flank speed of 32.5 knots. The Edson’s home port was in Long Beach, California. Its keel was laid in 1956 in Bath, Maine by Bath Iron Works Corporation. The destroyer was launched and commissioned in 1958. It was named after Major General Merritt “Red Mike” Edson from the Marine Corp in World War II. He received the Medal of Honor for service beyond the call of duty at Guadalcanal. The warship was sponsored by Edson’s widow.
The ship began by delivering supplies to the US Embassy in Lima, Peru. En route, it visited several Caribbean ports. After returning home, it conducted exercises in the Pacific Ocean. In 1960, the Edson spent its first deployment off the coast of Japan. It took part in a search-and-rescue mission for lost Marines. In April 1960, it rescued three men from a crashed aircraft.
Then in May, the Edson returned home for an overhaul. The ship spent the rest of 1960 in training. In June 1961, the Edson traveled to Portland, Oregon to the annual Rose Festival to represent the US Navy. In August 1961, it sailed back to East Asia and spent time patrolling off the coasts of Taiwan and China. It returned home in February 1962 and later had another overhaul.
Action in the Vietnam War
On the Edson’s next deployment in 1964, it sailed to the Philippines. It received the Navy Unit Commendation for operations in the Gulf of Tonkin. In 1967, the Edson was hit by North Vietnamese land artillery during a naval gunfire support mission.
The Edson experienced a fire in 1974 during training. The fire started from a rupture in a lube oil gauge line which sprayed oil. The room was soon secured and no one was injured during the fire. The Edson was deployed a total of eight times. It went to the Western Pacific Ocean for each operation. It earned a Vietnam Service medal for military service in the Vietnam War.
The Edson was decommissioned in 1988. It functioned as a museum ship in New York City at the Intrepid Sea-Air-Space Museum from 1989 to 2004. In 1990, it was designated a National Historic Landmark. The Edson is currently located in Philadelphia in possession of the United States Navy and awaiting approval to be reestablished as a museum ship.
Asbestos in Navy Ships
Although an essential component of the naval fleet, especially during World War II, naval destroyers also pose 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.