The USS Forrestal was built in Newport News, Virginia. It was the first U.S. Navy carrier that was built entirely with post-World War II design. The ship was commissioned in October 1955. The Forrestal took a trip in the eastern Atlantic during the crisis in the Suez. However, the beginning of the many Mediterranean cruises began in January, 1957.
Action in Vietnam
During the years from 1958 to 1966 the ship was deployed to the Mediterranean on six more occasions. Additionally, the Forrestal conducted aircraft trials. She was refitted with new control systems, command, and aviation during this period. The ship was sent on her only Pacific Ocean cruise in June, 1967. The goal was to offer more air power for the Vietnam War.
The following month she suffered a major fire which cut the trip short. The fire started in some aircraft on the flight deck. It then spread into the hangar. Although the crew was commended for their outstanding job of extinguishing the fire, it still left the ship with major damages. The fire resulted in the loss of 130 lives, along with 26 aircraft destroyed and more than 30 damaged.
After the War
In the middle of 1968 the Forrestal was repaired allowing her to begin her eighth Mediterranean tour. During the following 23 years she returned regularly. She operated with the sea’s Sixth Fleet. She was deployed on 20 separate missions. In July, 1976 the Forrestal was the host ship for the United States Bicentennial celebrations held in New York City. During the years from 1983 to 1985 she underwent a major Service Life Extension Program (SLEP).
The Forrestal received a new mission following her 1991 deployment. This was to serve as the Navy’s training carrier. She spent most of 1992 in Pensacola, Florida on a training service. The following September she went to the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard. There she began a major overhaul. Her service was cut short due to the post Cold war contraction of the nation’s military power. Then, in 1993, the USS Forrestal was decommissioned. This resulted in her being stricken from the Naval Vessel Register. She is presently in Navy custody stored at Newport, Rhode Island. However, she may be given a new role in the future as a museum ship.
Asbestos in Navy Ships
Although an essential component of the naval fleet, even today, aircraft carriers 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.