The destroyer Hewitt was built by the Ingalls Shipbuilding Division of Litton Industries in Pascagoula, Mississippi. The name of the ship came from Admiral H Kent Hewitt of the U.S. Navy. The destroyer was commissioned September 25, 1976, and joined the 7th Fleet in the Pacific in September 1978.
Service in the Pacific
The Hewitt was sent to the Indian Ocean to join Battle Group Charlie on May 15, 1980. The destroyer rescued Vietnamese refugees in the South China Sea and received two awards during this time, the Navy Expeditionary Medal and the Humanitarian Service Medal. She returned to the Long Beach Naval Shipyard for overhaul on May 19, 1981. The destroyer next performed exercises with other naval vessels in March of 1983. The ship also operated alone in the South China Sea.
On October 18, 1984, the Hewitt sailed once again to the Pacific to become part of Battle Group Charlie. The destroyer set a record for accuracy at the Naval Gunfire Support exercise in January 1985. The Hewitt performed operations in the North Arabia Sea and Gulf of Oman from February to April, and then arrived in San Diego on May 24. She joined with other ships to form the Pacific Fleet Anti-Submarine Warfare Squadron on September 1, 1985. The tasks of the squadron were to find and track submarines in the Eastern Pacific, as well as develop tactics.
Action in the Middle East
The Hewitt returned to National Steel and Shipbuilding Company Shipyard in San Diego for maintenance in May 1987. New weapons systems and a new sonar system were installed. She returned to the Persian Gulf in September of 1989 and remained there until March of the next year. In August of 1990, Yokosuka, Japan, became the new homeport for the Hewitt.
She united with ships from many countries for operations on August 25. The destroyer helped to uphold sanctions against Iraq during Operation Desert Storm in 1991. The Hewitt participated in exercises in Hawaii in 1994, but then returned to the Persian Gulf to support sanctions against Iraq. In 1995, the Hewitt was active in exercises with naval vessels from other nations. She was sent back to the Persian Gulf in June of 1996 and fired two Tomahawk missiles against Iraq in September.
Hewitt joined the Republic of Korea Navy for an exercise in the Yellow Sea in March 1997. The first female sailors were assigned to the Hewitt in July of 1997. Her homeport was changed to San Diego on January 27, 1999. The USS Hewitt was decommissioned July 19, 2001, and sold as scrap. The next year, her name was struck from the Naval Register
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.