The Navy’s last Anchorage-class dock landing ships, the USS Fort Fisher was an amphibious assault support ship. She was constructed by General Dynamics Quincy Shipbuilding of Massachusetts. The vessel was commissioned in 1972, sailing for Long Beach, California via the Panama Canal. However, the vessel was constructed too late to contribute greatly to the Vietnam War. Nevertheless, the Fort Fisher still participated in deployments throughout the 1970s and early 1980s.
After the War
The USS Fort Fisher was among the first vessels to act in support of the Navy’s new hovercrafts that appeared in the late 1980s. This new role was in response to the Navy’s modernization program. The Fort Fisher also underwent an overhaul, then being used to ferry equipment through the Panama Canal. However, she took a more active role beginning in 1991, battling drug smugglers in Central America.
Furthermore, the Fort Fisher also undertook several missions in the Arabian Gulf throughout the 1990s, also playing a supporting role in U.S. efforts in Somalia. The vessel both transported troops to the nation when the conflict began, and also led the withdrawal of troops in 1995 when the situation worsened.
After that conflict ended, the Fort Fisher was deployed on an around-the-world cruise which marked its last operations. The ship’s final military exercises took place off the coast of Jordan in 1997. The Fort Fisher returned to port in September of 1997 and was decommissioned the following February.
Asbestos in Navy Ships
Although an essential component of the naval fleet, auxiliary vessels 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.