The USS Monticello LSD-35 was the third American ship to be named after Thomas Jefferson’s Virginia estate. She was a Thomaston-class dock landing ship built by Ingalls Shipbuilding Corporation of Mississippi and was commissioned in March 1957.
Service in the Pacific
The Monticello was sent to San Diego in May 1957, where she was used in training operations off the Pacific for several years. These efforts included exercises at Eniwetok, Hawaii, and Alaska and helped various types of ships to stay ready for international crises or even war.
In November 1960, the Monticello began a seven-month deployment in the western Pacific, which involved being summoned several times during the Laos crisis. The ship was prepared for combat at the time, accompanied by destroyers. After that mission, the ship participated in a joint exercise with the Army, Navy, and Air Force off Washington, and then returned to San Diego.
Starting in 1962, the ship was used in nuclear weapons and antisubmarine weapons testing, often traveling between San Diego and Christmas Island, and also was used around that time in a training exercise off Okinawa. In 1964, the Monticello became part of the Seventh Fleet’s Amphibious Ready Group, where she was involved in exercises for the U.S. and SEATO.
Action in Vietnam
Early 1966 took the Monticello to the Vietnam War, where she was used in Operation Double Eagle, which was the largest amphibious operation at the time. It allowed allied forces to land near Thac Tru and secure a beach to engage the Vietcong. The operation lasted through February, when the Monticello returned home via Hong Kong and Pearl Harbor.
Back in San Diego, the ship received servicing and more training off San Diego, then returned to Vietnam for more action. She enabled such operations as Operation Beacon Hill I, Beacon Star, Bell, Beacon Torch, Bear Chain, Kangaroo Kick, and Belt Drive. She was finally relieved at Da Nang in September of 1967 and returned to San Diego in October, followed by one more trip to Vietnam, which ended in 1969.
After the War
The USS Monticello was decommissioned in October 1985, struck from the Navy list in 1992, and sold to Pegasus Inc two years later for scrapping. However, after Pegasus failed to scrap the Monticello, she was repossessed by the Navy and docked in the National Defense Reserve Fleet. In July 2010 the ship was to be towed to Hawaii for sinking.
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.