USS Merrill DD-976 (1979-1998)

The USS Merrill is a Spruance class destroyer whose deck was laid down in June of 1975. She was commissioned in March of 1978 as the test ship for the Tomahawk cruise missile system that was eventually put aboard the other Spruance class ships. The Merrill was sent to the Western Pacific in 1980 and ended up rescuing some Vietnamese refugees nearly 200 miles from Saigon. She then had her missile system put into force.

Action in the Middle East and South America

The Merrill in 1989 was sent on deployment as part of the Joint Task Force Middle East for a year before she steamed back to San Diego in 1990. She returned to the Gulf in 1991 where she became the flagship for the mine sweeping ships in the area. She visited the port of Kuwait City after it was liberated from the Iraqi forces. She was then sent to South America to help combat the trade in narcotics. The Merrill then became part of the Abraham Lincoln group, participating in international maneuvers to secure U.S. interests in the Pacific and Indian Ocean. She had another tour of duty acting as an escort ship off of the Persian Gulf. However, she would be reorganized and moved to a different home port and become part of the Destroyer Squadron 7. The Merrill was one of many ships that participated in the Joint Task Force Exercise off the Southern California coast. After she completed this exercise, the Merrill joined another part of a large battle group and saw duty in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. The group arrived in the Arabian Sea and conducted high tempo operations in the Persian Gulf. The Merrill also helped train the Pakistani Armed Forces in joint exercises.

After Service

Decommissioned in 1998, the Merrill was struck from the Naval Register and awaited scrapping at Pearl Harbor.  She was finally sunk as a target in 2003 off the coast of Hawaii.

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.