The USS New Orleans was an Iwo Jima-class amphibious assault ship and was named for the Battle of New Orleans of the War of 1812. The ship launched in 1968. Among her first duties, in the summer of 1969, she was sent to retrieve troops from Vietnam when conflict there was ending. The ship conducted many amphibious exercises throughout the Far East.
The USS New Orleans returned to home port at San Diego in the middle of 1970. After her return, she was part of security detail for President Nixon’s trip to Mexico. He traveled to Puerto Vallarta. In late 1970, the USS New Orleans was preparing for the mission to recover Apollo 14. In February of 1971, she recovered the vessel and the astronauts from the waters 900 miles south of American Samoa.
The USS New Orleans was deployed to the Far East twice more, once in 1971 and again in 1972. During her second deployment, she participated in flood relief in the Philippines and received an award from them for her services. In the beginning of 1973, the ship was part of Operation Endsweep, during which the United States cleared mines from the waters around Vietnam. For the latter part of the 1970’s, she was part of the recovery for Skylab missions 2, 3, and 4 and also for the American and Soviet Apollo-Soyus mission.
In 1980, the ship was sent to the Middle East in response to the Iran hostage crisis. In 1981, the USS New Orleans was given a complete overhaul at Puget Sound Naval Yard. Until the middle of the decade, she participated in many exercises and training sessions throughout the Pacific and Middle East. In 1986, the ship was put on standby in waters around the Philippines during the elections being held in case of domestic unrest. During 1990 and 1991, the USS New Orleans was deployed as part of Desert Storm in the Persian Gulf. In 1994, she was in the film Apollo 13, appearing as her sister ship, the USS Iwo Jima.
In October, 1997, the USS New Orleans was taken out of commission at San Diego. During her service in the US Navy, she received the Navy Unit Commendation, four Battle Efficiency Awards, the Meritorious Unit Commendation, the Navy Expeditionary Medal, the Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal, the Southwest Asia Campaign Medal, the Vietnam Service Medal, and the Kuwait Liberation Medal.
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.