The USS Thomaston (LSD-28) was the lead ship of her class of dock landing ships of the United States Navy. She was named for Thomaston, Maine, which was the home of General Henry Knox, the first Secretary of War. Captain Marion F. Ramirez de Arellano commissioned the Thomaston on September 17, 1954. The dimensions of the vessel included a length of 510 ft (160 m), a beam of 84 ft (26 m) and a draft of 19 ft (5.8 m). She had the ability to carry 300 troops and eight helicopters with a displacement of 11,525 long tons full load.
In 1955 the Thomaston was stationed in the Pacific and participated in the Arctic Resupply Project in 1955, which brought provisions to the radar stations near the Aleutian Islands of Alaska. In 1957, the ship sailed to the Hawaiian Islands and then to Camp Pendleton, California where she conducted both local operations and landing exercises.
During the Cuban Missile Crisis, the Thomaston sailed via the Panama Canal to the Caribbean where it conducted operations with the Atlantic Fleet until the withdrawal of missiles in October 1962. From 1963 to 1964, the Thomaston sailed back to the Pacific where she continued to conduct training exercises as well as rescue missions in such areas as San Diego, Pearl Harbor, the South China Sea and Japan.
Service in the Vietnam War
During the Vietnam War, the Thomaston carried out active combat operations against the Viet Cong, which included amphibious assaults, troop lifts, cargo lifts and supply runs from the Cua Vet River to Dong Ha.
At the end of the war in 1975, the ship was involved in operation Eagle Pull, which evacuated Americans from the Cambodian capital of Phnom Penh. They were picked up by helicopters and taken to the ship offshore.
After the Vietnam War, the Thomaston, once again, returned to the Pacific where she conducted training exercises in Japan, Korea and Hawaii before docking in San Diego where she would eventually become decommissioned on September 28, 1984. For her service, the Thomaston received 11 battle stars, one Navy Unit Commendation and two Meritorious Unit Commendations.
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.