USS Somers DD-947 (1959-1988)
The USS Somers (DD-947) was the sixth ship to be named after Commander Richard Somers, who was killed in 1804 during the war with the Barbary pirates. She was a 4,200 ton Forrest Sherman class destroyer, built at Bath, Maine, and commissioned on April 3, 1959.
The Somers departed on her maiden voyage in June 1959. The trip took her to South America, Canada and Europe, where she represented the Fleet at a festival in Kiel, Germany. She then set out for San Diego via the Panama Canal, arriving July 27. For the next six weeks the ship underwent shakedown training off the West Coast. Following that she went into port for overhaul which lasted one month.
Action in Vietnam
During the next six-and-a-half years Somers made four deployments to join 7th Fleet operations in the Western Pacific. The first three cruises were uneventful; however the fourth cruise took her to the Vietnam combat area. She provided plane-guard services for USS Ranger, USS Hancock and USS Coral Sea as their aircraft struck targets in North Vietnam. The Somers returned to homeport in August 1965. On April 11, 1966, she entered the yard at San Francisco to begin a two-year conversion to a Decatur class guided missile destroyer. This included adding the Tartar missile system and the ASROC antisubmarine rocket system. She was recommissioned February 10, 1968, as DDG-34.
In November 1969, the Somers sailed for the Far East, again operating in the Gulf of Tonkin, splitting time between plane-guarding and the gun line. When she returned to the United States in May 1970 she pulled into Long Beach, California. The ship deployed for Westpac in November. From then until May, 1971 she provided gunfire support and conducted plane-guarding and search and rescue operations. The destroyer entered the yards August 9, 1971 for regular overhaul which lasted until December 3. She returned to 7th Fleet duty April 9, 1972 once again conducting combat support operations and then returning to Long Beach in November. Somers deployed to the Far East one more time from October 1973 to May 1974.
After the War
The USS Somers was awarded five Battle Stars for service in Vietnam. Decommissioned in 1982 and removed from the naval register in 1988, the Somers was purposefully sunk by missiles fired from two B-52s on July 22, 1998.
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.