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USS Hull (DD-945)

The USS Hull belonged to the Forrest Sherman class of U.S. Navy destroyers, a class of ships that were made in the post-World War II years. She was commissioned in 1958 and saw service through the early 1980s. Her active duty tours included service during the Vietnam War, participating in combat, patrolling, escorting other ships, and even rescuing downed aviators.

Although the Hull performed admirably in service of the U.S. Navy for decades, she was built at a time, the 1950s, when the use of asbestos in shipbuilding was high. Asbestos was used throughout the ship and caused many of the service men and women on board to be put at risk for exposure. Some of these were later diagnosed with serious illnesses as veterans and suffered severe pulmonary and respiratory symptoms decades after serving their country aboard the USS Hull.

About the USS Hull

The USS Hull, designated as DD-945, was a destroyer in the U.S. Navy from her commissioning in 1958 through her decommissioning in 1983. She was named for Isaac Hull, a captain who served in the War of 1812. The Hull was 418 feet long and displaced 4,050 tons when at full capacity. She was powered by four Babcock & Wilcox boilers and General Electric steam turbines. Her range was 4,500 nautical miles and she carried 15 officers and 218 enlisted men when at full capacity.

The Hull was one of 18 destroyers in the Forrest Sherman class. These were the first destroyers to be built by the navy after World War II and all received important updates in the 1970s that allowed them to continue in active service into the 1980s. None of the Forrest Sherman destroyers are still in commission, and the Hull was one of nine that was sunk in training exercises.

Construction and Upgrades

Bath Iron Works in Bath, Maine was chosen to build the USS Hull and she was laid down in 1956 and launched in 1957. Her commissioning occurred on July 3, 1958 under Commander Herbert H. Ries. The Hull received a major overhaul with upgrades between 1974 and 1975. Much of the overhaul was done to upgrade and modernize the onboard weaponry. The Hull and other destroyers were given new guns that were designed for their size. The Hull was the first destroyer to receive and test the new weaponry. She also underwent upgrades in 1979 and during that time the test guns were removed.

Active Service and Deployment

After being commissioned in 1958, the Hull traveled through the Panama Canal to begin active service as part of the Pacific Fleet, following training exercises in San Diego. During her early years in the 1960s the Hull participated in various types of training in the Pacific, including antisubmarine training, with a detour in 1962 to escort other navy ships to join the blockade in the Caribbean during the Cuban Missile Crisis.

The Hull then returned to the Pacific and in 1965 was ordered to patrol duties in Vietnam. In total, she was deployed six times to serve in the Vietnam War. During those deployments she fired thousands of rounds to support U.S. forces on shore, acted as a plane guard for aircraft carriers, and rescued downed pilots. She also participated in Operation Sea Dragon and in multiple naval gunfire support missions.

In the mid-1970s the Hull received her weaponry upgrades and underwent trials that would help determine if the new gun would go into the next class of destroyers. The tests were successful and the Hull continued to use the new guns during operations and testing. After going through more upgrades in 1979 the Hull returned to the Pacific. Her final deployment occurred in 1982 and included rescuing Vietnamese refugees at sea and protecting the aircraft carrier Enterprise.

Use of Asbestos on the USS Hull

The 1950s was a time when asbestos use was normal and heavy in many industries, including in the building of ships of all types, including navy ships. The USS Hull was no exception and she was made with asbestos in many of her components and equipment. Asbestos was mostly chosen to use on ships for its ability to insulate and provide fireproofing. The equipment and machinery that had the heaviest use of asbestos were those that generated heat, such as the boilers and turbines.

Pipes throughout the ship were also insulated heavily with asbestos, as these often carried hot water and steam. Additionally, fireproofing and firefighting equipment and gear was loaded with asbestos, gaskets, valves, adhesives, seals, packings, rope, deck matting, and even the flooring materials used in crew quarters and the mess, were made with asbestos.

Exposure and Illness in USS Hull Veterans

Any veteran who served on the USS Hull may have been exposed to asbestos. Also at risk were those people who built the ship, worked in the shipyard, and worked on repairs and upgrades to components of the ship. Most at risk in serving on the ship were those veterans who were involved in activities that could have disrupted the asbestos materials. Repairing, replacing, maintaining, and removing these materials in any way, for example, cutting into pipe insulation to make a fix, was likely to cause asbestos fibers to be released and to cause inhalation.

Men and women who served on the Hull working directly with the boilers or turbines were among those most at risk of asbestos exposure because of the heavy use of the material in insulating and fireproofing these machines. Anyone else could have been at risk on the ship too, as working around asbestos, especially in confined areas with little ventilation, can easily lead to fiber release and the inhalation that can lead to later illnesses like lung cancer, asbestosis, and mesothelioma. These are all diseases that are ultimately terminal.

There have been cases documented with the Veterans Administration (VA) that demonstrate the exposure that veterans on the Hull experienced and that this exposure led to later illnesses. In one example, a veteran filed a claim after serving in the navy for 20 years, including service on the Hull. The VA determined that his pulmonary fibrosis, a disease that led to his death, was caused by asbestos exposure during service.

Another veteran was determined to have developed chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder, partly as a result of exposure to asbestos on the Hull and other navy ships. He worked in engine rooms, in machinery rooms, with refrigerating and air conditioning, and participated in firefighting, all activities that increased his risk of being exposed to asbestos.

If you served on the Hull or any other navy ship and developed a respiratory illness that can be attributed to asbestos exposure, you may have a right to receive compensation through the VA. There is a claims process, but it can be confusing. You can rely on a mesothelioma lawyer to help you make it through the process and get the support you need for your illness.

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