USS Procyon AF-61 (1961-1970)
The USS Procyon started as a civilian transport vessel. She was built as a stores ship to transport dry goods, perishable goods, and various types of equipment and machinery. After her initial fabrication by the Moore DD Company, she was launched on June 1, 1942, and sailed for the United Fruit Co. At this point, she was known as the SS Flying Scud.
The United States Navy attained the Flying Scud on August 8, 1961. She was then taken in for a revamping to make her military suitable. Her displacement was 14,180 tons with a length of 460 feet. Her beam was 63 feet with a draft of 26 feet 7 inches. Her top speed was 16 knots, and she had a complement of 292 officers and enlisted men. She was equipped with a single 3″/50 gun mount. Her propulsion was cross compound turbines with a single propeller.
Service in the Pacific
Converted and renamed, she was officially commissioned by the Navy on November 24, 1961. She was then sent for shakedown and FAST (Fast at Sea Transfer) testing. Having successfully passed all her trials, she was then deployed to the western Pacific. Her orders sent the vessel to the area between and surrounding Sasebo, Japan.
Between February 23 and July 7, 1963, the Procyon was assigned to duty with the 7th Fleet. They were stationed in the western Pacific. Returning to the states for a brief layover, the Procyon was then redeployed to the western Pacific on October 6. She was ordered to go and perform maneuvers with the 7th Fleet.
When hostilities broke out in Vietnam, the Procyon was still operating with the 7th Fleet. She was now ordered to report for combat duties in the Gulf of Tonkin. This tour of duty lasted from August 1 until December 7. When her combat duties were fulfilled, she was then given orders to go provide logistic support to Task Force 77 in Yankee Station. Still operating as an active part of the 7th Fleet, the Procyon also provided support for Operation Market Time that ran from Da Nang to Vung Tao.
The USS Procyon continued to perform her duties with the 7th Fleet until 1970, when she was officially decommissioned. Her official removal from the Naval Register took place on June 1, 1976. She was placed in the National Defense Reserve Fleet in 1981, but her fate after that remains unknown.
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.