USS Inchon LPH-12 (1970-2004)
The USS Inchon was an Iwo Jima class amphibious assault ship (LPH/MCS-12), part of the US Navy from June 1970 to June 2002. The Inchon received her name in honor of the Battle of Inchon which was a pivotal conflict during the Korean War. The Inchon was laid down on April 8, 1968, in Pascagoula, Mississippi, and launched on May 24, 1969, receiving her commission on June 20, 1970. Her displacement was 19,500 tons and she measured 603.65 feet in length.
Service in the Mediterranean
In 1982, the Inchon sailed to Beirut, Lebanon, as the flagship of Amphibious Squadron 6. Her group relieved the 32nd Marine Amphibious Unit and was then known as Mediterranean Amphibious Ready Group 3-82. While there, the Inchon landed troops and supported shore operations. She and the other members of the group were awarded the Navy Expeditionary Medal and the Navy Unit Commendation. The latter is equivalent to the Silver Star, awarded to an individual in combat situations.
In March of 1995 the ship received a re-classification, deeming her a Mine Countermeasures Command and Support Ship, or MCS-12. She was sent back to Ingalls Shipbuilding in Pascagoula to be converted for her new role. The Inchon was later reassigned to the active Naval Reserve Force on September 30, 1996.
Fire in the Atlantic
In October of 2001, the Inchon suffered a fuel oil fire in the boiler room during in port steaming for engineering trials and assessment. The exact cause of the fire is unknown, but the entire bilge was engulfed in flames while nine sailors were working in the room; only eight of them made it out to safety. Due to the extent of the damage from the fire, the Navy made the decision to decommission her, rather than make the necessary repairs.
The Inchon then received her decommissioning on June 20, 2002, at Ingleside, Texas. She was then laid up in the Atlantic Reserve Fleet at Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. She was stricken from the Navy Vessel Register on May 24, 2004, and sunk on December 5 of the same year, just East of Virginia Beach, Virginia.
Asbestos in Navy Ships
Although an essential component of the naval fleet, some auxiliary vessels also posed 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.