The USS O’Bannon (DD-987) was a Spruance-class destroyer that was named for Lieutenant Presley O’Bannon (1776–1850). Lt. O’Bannon was an early hero of the United States Marine Corps who gained fame from his exploits during the First Barbary War.
Built by the Ingalls Shipbuilding Corporation in Pascagoula, Mississippi, the O’Bannon was laid down on February 21, 1977. The Navy vessel was launched on September 25, 1978 and commissioned on December 15, 1979. With an overall length of 563 feet, the ship’s propulsion was driven by four General Electric LM2500 gas turbines, with 80,000 shp or 60 megawatts. The USS O’Bannon had a speed of 32.5 knots and a range of 6,000 nautical miles at 20 knots, and 3,300 nautical miles at 30 knots. While active it had a complement of 19 officers and 315 enlisted men. The destroyer had a number of weapon systems that included Mark 45 dual purpose guns, Phalanx CIWS Mark 15 guns, Harpoon missile canisters, Mark 32 triple torpedo tubes (with Mk 46 torpedoes), a launcher for Tomahawk missiles, and a Rolling Airframe Missile. It also carried two Sikorsky SH-60 Seahawk LAMPS III helicopters.
The USS O’Bannon was originally to remain in service through 2010 but was part of the group of Spruance-class destroyers that had their decommissioning moved up as a cost saving measure by the government. It was decommissioned on August 19, 2005 and at the time was the last Spruance-class destroyer in the Atlantic Fleet. It was removed from the Naval Vessel Register on the same date as its decommissioning. The USS O’Bannon was originally slated to be sold to the country of Chile but in 2005 the destroyer was scheduled to be transferred by Foreign Military Sales ( FMS ) Case Funds to the Turkish Navy.
However, that transaction did not occur and the USS O’Bannon was used in training exercises in 2008 by the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower carrier group. On October 6, 2008, as part of the training, the destroyer was sunken off the Virginia coast while being used as a training target under fire of missiles, guns, and a Mk 82 bomb.
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.