The USS Tripoli was first laid down on June 15, 1964. It was an Iwo Jima class destroyer launched on July 31, 1965, and commissioned for service on August 6, 1966, with Captain Henry Suerstedt in command. The Tripoli was sponsored by the wife of General Clifton B. Cates, Commandant of the Marines.
The Tripoli launched from the East Coast and arrived at her West Coast station on November 22. After a short training period in San Diego, the Tripoli embarked with the HMH 463 (Heavy Marine Helicopter Squadron) on May 1, 1967, and was deployed for Pacific duty.
Action in Vietnam and the Persian Gulf
The Tripoli served three deployments in Vietnamese waters during the Vietnam War. She operated out of Subic Bay in the Philippines. In 1967, she participated in eight amphibious landings in the war zone. She served as the flagship of the Amphibious Ready Group for most of the year. She returned to San Diego on November 30 for repairs and training exercises.
In 1968, she was again deployed twice to Vietnam, where she participated in important missions that provided the Marines with support and logistics. The Tripoli was crucial to many operations, including Eager Yankee, Swift Play, Daring Endeavor, and Bold Mariner. After her return from Vietnam, the Tripoli was sent back to the Far East for two more deployments between 1974 and 1977.
After 1977, the Tripoli was stationed back in San Diego, where she began her new career as an AV-8 carrier. In 1978, the Pacific Fleet introduced the new AV-8 Harrier Helicopter. The Tripoli proved that she could manage this new, larger equipment and was the first ship to be equipped with a Harrier squadron.
On December 1, 1990, the Tripoli was sent to the Persian Gulf. Kuwait had been invaded, and the United States was responding. While in the Persian Gulf, the ship encountered a water mine and received severe hull damage; four members of the crew were injured. The ship received a Combat Action Ribbon for its actions in the Gulf. The next stop for the Tripoli was Mogadishu. Fighting had broken out in Somalia, and action was required. On December 3, 1992, the Tripoli disembarked troops on the Somali coast for Operation Restore Hope.
The Tripoli was decommissioned in 1995. However, the U.S. Army was given the ship as a loan and has been using it as a test station for ballistic missiles. Missiles are launched from the ship to test accuracy of interception devices. The Tripoli remains in Pearl Harbor performing these duties today.
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 to detect possible health consequences associated with asbestos exposure.