The USS Gridley was commissioned on May 25, 1963. Originally designated DLG-21, she was the third ship named for Charles Vernon Gridley, an officer at the Battle of Manila Bay in 1898. She was a 7,400-ton Leahy-class guided missile frigate/cruiser.
Following acceptance trials, Gridley was named flagship of the Pacific Fleet’s Destroyer Squadron 19. With her home port in Long Beach, California, she departed on her first deployment April 8, 1964, visiting Pearl Harbor, Australia, the Philippines, Okinawa, and Japan. Beginning on August 4, she served as escort to the carrier USS Constellation in the South China Sea in the wake of the Gulf of Tonkin Incident. As a screener and picket ship, she coordinated anti-aircraft defenses.
Action in the Vietnam War
Leaving the fighting zone on September 6, she arrived in Long Beach on November 21. Returning to the conflict in summer 1965, Gridley supported aircraft carrier operations in the waters off Vietnam, rescuing downed aviators on four separate occasions. In early 1966, she headed for her home port. She conducted another cruise to the war zone in the first half of 1967 and was assigned various missions.
After the War
Gridley was equipped with digital missile fire control in 1972 and was reclassified as a guided missile cruiser,CG-21, in 1975. She made a Westpac tour the following year and again in 1979 through 1980. As a result of the Iranian Hostage Crisis, she remained on station in the North Arabian Sea until the middle of 1980.
In October 1982, she entered the Long Beach shipyard for an extensive overhaul and upgrade, including installation of the Phalanx close-in weapons system (CIWS). She then made two trips to the Persian Gulf, first in 1987 and again in 1988. In October 1989, Gridley’s crew provided assistance to the residents of San Francisco following a 7.1 magnitude earthquake.
Upgraded again in 1990—1991, Gridley returned to the Persian Gulf in 1992, where she rescued the disabled merchant vessel Adel 11 in June. She was the first ship on station for Operation Southern Watch, the enforcement of the “no-fly” zone over southern Iraq. In the first half of 1993, she was fitted with the new SM-2ER block III missile. During subsequent testing at the Pacific Missile Range, she scored several hits.
Gridley was decommissioned in October 1993 and stricken from the naval register. She remained at the Suisun Bay, California, reserve until being scrapped in 2005. Gridley was awarded a Navy Unit Commendation Medal for her service off the coast of Vietnam.
Asbestos in Navy Ships
Although an essential component of the naval fleet, even today naval cruisers 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 to detect possible health consequences associated with asbestos exposure.