USS Thorn DD-988 (1979-2004)

This vessel was named after Jonathan Thorn, a midshipman who served the Navy bravely during the Tripolitan War. He was eventually murdered by Native Americans while commanding a fur trading post in the western part of the country, off Nootka. The name “Thorn” was originally assigned to DD-505 in January 1941. That vessel was an experimental destroyer ordered in 1940 from the Federal Shipbuilding and Drydock Co. of Kearny New Jersey. However, the contract for that vessel was cancelled in February 1941 to be replaced with a contract for the Thorn DD-647, which was a Gleaves-class destroyer.

Service in the Atlantic and Mediterranean

The USS Thorn was a Spruance-class destroyer built by Ingalls Shipbuilding of Pascagoula, Mississippi. The 8,040-ton destroyer was commissioned on February 16, 1980. Based out of the Norfolk Virginia Naval Station, the Thorn was a member of UNITAS XXV during 1985. This exercise is an annual event in which the U.S. Navy conducts exercises alongside South American nation navies. The next year Thorn was sent to Europe, returning in 1987.

The vessel was then sent to the Mediterranean in late 1987, docking at Barcelona, Spain that December. In 1994, Thorn underwent an overhaul which took the Newport News Shipbuilding and Drydock Corporation shipyards three months.

1997 saw the Thorn patrolling the Persian Gulf, enforcing United Nations sanctions against Iraq. During most of 1998 the Thorn was in port, receiving a new computer system which allowed the crew to monitor conditions throughout the ship. Next she sailed to the Mediterranean with the USS Enterprise carrier group. Thorn again sailed to the Mediterranean in 2001, 2003, and 2004.

After Service

USS Thorn DD-988 was decommissioned and stricken from the Navy list on August 25, 2004. The destroyer was sunk as a target on July 22, 2006.

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.