USS John Hancock DD-981 (1978-2000)

The USS John Hancock was a Spruance-class destroyer. This class of ship was designed in the 1970s specifically for anti-submarine warfare. The John Hancock was launched on October 29, 1977, and commissioned on March 10, 1979.  She was originally assigned to the Atlantic Fleet and stationed at Naval Station Mayport in Florida. Even thought the DD designation indicates that the ship carries guns, the main weapon of the John Hancock was missiles. She was a wide-ranging ship with a top speed of 32.5 knots, equivalent to approximately 60 kilometers per hour, provided by four GE electric turbines. A full crew would consist of nineteen officers and three-hundred fifteen enlisted men and women. In 1989, the John Hancock underwent a complete overhaul and conversion in Mississippi.

Service in the Persian Gulf

After her shakedown cruise at Guantanamo Bay, the John Hancock provided support for many military operations including a tour in the Persian Gulf as part of Operation Southern Watch in 1987.  Four years later, she was deployed as part of Operation North Star in the North Atlantic Ocean.  After rescuing an injured Filipino sailor in the Red Sea, the destroyer was assigned to enforce United Nations sanctions against Iraq.  While performing this duty, she intercepted the 20,000th ship since the sanctions were applied. The John Hancock also served in many operations in the Mediterranean Sea and the Adriatic Sea, including Operation Southern Watch. This ship was also part of a pilot group of ships for the P2 afloat program, which sought to reduce operational costs while improving the quality of life for those who live on board ship.

After Service

After participating in many naval exercises organized both by the US and international naval groups, the USS John Hancock took part in the sixth International Naval Review in New York City in July of 2000. She was decommissioned in October of that year. After being held in reserve at the Philadelphia Ship Maintenance Facility, she was scrapped in 2007.

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.