The USS Lawrence was constructed in Camden, New Jersey, and named for Captain James Lawrence (1781-1813). Her keel was laid in 1958, but she was not launched until 1960 and was commissioned two years after that. This Charles F. Adams guided-missile destroyer weighed 3370 tons. Twenty-nine of these destroyers were built between 1958 and 1967. Twenty-three went to the United States, three to West Germany and three to Australia. They were loosely based on the Forrest Sherman class, but were actually the first destroyers that were designed to serve as missile destroyers.
Action in the Mediterranean and Vietnam
After being put in to commission in January of 1962, she toured the Great Lakes for her shakedown. She was part of the forces that helped with the Cuban Missile crisis in the fall of 1962 in the waters of the Caribbean. After this was over, she made more than 12 trips to the Mediterranean via the Atlantic to take part in operations with the Sixth Fleet there. This started in February of 1963 and continued through 1979. On her fourth patrol, she was able to rescue crewmen from a sinking merchant ship in Greece. Her last cruise to the Mediterranean included a trip to the Black Sea. She was also deployed to the Persian Gulf and Indian Ocean in between these Mediterranean cruises.
The only real war duty this experienced destroyer had was during the Vietnam War where from 1972 through 1973 she was sent to the Western Pacific to guard aircraft carriers and provide supportive cover fire. Mostly though, she was put to work closer to the United States, often in the waters of the Caribbean or the western waters of the Atlantic. Once in a while she was sent to Northern Europe. She was sent to South America to help with Operation Unitas XVII in 1986. Once there she joined with Latin American navies, and as part of the operation, visited ports in Peru, Uruguay, Chile, Ecuador, Venezuela, Columbia and Brazil.
Finally, after a long career, in March of 1990, she was put out of commission, and stricken from the register. Though she was sold in 1994, the company that bought her never came through. She was taken back by the Navy in October of 1996 and sold for scrap 1999.
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.