The USS Worden, commissioned in 1963 as a frigate and later redesignated a cruiser, saw action in the Vietnam War and the Gulf War during its 30 years of service in the U.S. Navy.
The Worden, with a crew of 400, measured 533 feet in length and displaced 7,903 tons. Its top speed was 34 knots. The Leahy-class cruiser’s armament included two Mark 10 Terrier surface-to-air missile launchers, an ASROC anti-submarine warfare system, Harpoon anti-ship missiles (added in the 1980s), six surface-vessel torpedo tubes, and two Phalanx close-in weapons systems.
The Worden’s entire active service life was spent in the Pacific and Far East. The vessel’s initial home port was San Diego, with Yokosuka, Japan, becoming the ship’s home port in 1971 when it was permanently assigned to the Navy’s 7th Fleet. Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, became the cruiser’s home port in the early 1980s.
The warship’s first Far East deployment occurred in 1964, and it operated in Southeast Asia until the end of that year. During a subsequent deployment in 1966, while performing plane-guard duties for the carrier USS Ranger, a rescue helicopter from the Worden saved a fighter plane pilot by pulling him from the sea three miles from shore. During the years that followed, the Worden frequently performed sea-air rescue duties near Vietnam.
In late 1969, the vessel began a long decommissioning period as it was overhauled at Bath, Maine, gaining enhanced anti-aircraft capabilities. She returned to service in early 1971 and returned to duty in the Gulf of Tonkin near Vietnam in 1972. In April of that year, as the United States conducted an air strike on Haiphong, U.S. aircraft inadvertently fired two missiles that hit the Worden, killing a crewman and injuring nine others. After a 10-day repair stint at the Subic Bay base in the Philippines, the Worden returned to action.
During the fall of South Vietnam in 1975, the Worden played a part in evacuating Americans from that nation. Years later, in January 1991, the Worden saw action as the United States launched Operation Desert Storm in answer to the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait. Operating in the Persian Gulf, Worden crew members guided Navy F-14 Tomcat fighters to a pair of Iraqi fighters over the Gulf. The Iraqi jets were eventually downed by Royal Saudi Air Force F-15s.
The Worden was decommissioned on Oct. 1, 1993, and sunk during training exercises in June 2000. She was awarded nine battle stars for her service in Vietnam.
Asbestos in Navy Ships
Although an essential component of the naval fleet, even today, naval cruisers 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 to detect possible health consequences associated with asbestos exposure.