U.S.S. Asheville (PG-84)

Asheville was the lead ship of her class of fast patrol boats. She served in the Viet Nam War.

Design and Construction

Asheville and her sisters were designed as fast gunboats, capable of responding to a crisis more quickly than conventional steam-powered warships could. This was in direct response to the Cuban Missile Crisis. These boats were some of the first vessels in the U.S. Navy to feature a combined diesel or gas turbine (CODOG) power source. Two diesel engines provided power for normal operations and cruising, while the turbines were available for quick dashes when needed. Asheville was laid down by the Tacoma Boatbuilding Co. at Tacoma, WA on April 15, 1964. She commissioned August 6, 1966.

Service

Asheville made her homeport at San Diego, CA on September 22. Her new crew quickly realized that her cutting-edge engines would be a lasting problem. Her shakedown and post-shakedown repairs lasted nearly five months, and en route to her first tour off Viet Nam, her engines failed completely, necessitating a total breakdown of her propulsion plant at Guam. The troubled gunboat finally arrived off Viet Nam on May 7, 1967.

Despite her extended teething problems, Asheville’s unique attributes as a well-armed, fast, shallow draft vessel were in great demand off Viet Nam, and she would spend an incredible eight years away from home. From her arrival until 1970, the gunboat patrolled the coastal areas and waterways looking for Viet Cong supply boats. She also provided fire support for troops ashore with her rapid fire, radar guided 3-inch gun mount. Her periods at Viet Nam were laced with frequent trips to yards in the Western Pacific for repairs.

Overhauled at Guam in 1970, Asheville departed in November for a two-month survey of the Marianas Islands. After her return to Guam, Asheville set out for Viet Nam again. The gunboat found herself in much the same roles as before, and as before, her engines plagued her. On May 18, 1971, she returned to Guam for another overhaul. She was released on July 9 and began another coastal survey, this time in the Trust Territories of the Pacific, an island group in Micronesia governed by the U.S. at the time.

The ship returned to Viet Nam on November 5, 1971 and got back to work in the vicinity of Vung Tau. She returned to Guam on May 31, 1972. After a brief visit to Vietnamese waters in November, Asheville made port at Bangkok and remained there until December, when her old port at Guam called her back. She was in Apra Harbor when U.S. involvement in Viet Nam ended.

Despite this good news, Asheville would not get the chance to go back home yet. She operated out of Guam for the rest of 1973. In November, she set out on a voyage around the South Pacific, touring Indonesia, Australia, and the Admiralty Islands. She pulled into Apra on December 17 and resumed her regular operations. Then, on June 21, 1974, the prodigal gunboat finally got her orders to return home. Asheville stood out of Guam that day, bound for the United States.

Fate

She reached her old homeport of San Diego on July 16 and on August 1, she sailed for Naval Reserve duty in Chicago. After a long voyage with many port calls, Asheville reached her destination. Decommissioned at Chicago on January 31, 1977, she was transferred to the Massachusetts Maritime Academy on April 11. Her ultimate fate is unknown.

Risk of Asbestos Exposure

While asbestos was most commonly employed on steam-powered vessels, certain materials aboard Asheville, such as vinyl tile and fireproof suits may have contained asbestos.

When damaged or worn, asbestos-based materials release tiny fibers. These fibers are proven to cause mesothelioma, a malignant cancer of the lungs. While there is no cure for mesothelioma, treatments such as chemotherapy can be employed to fight the disease. If you or someone you know served aboard Asheville or worked on her in a shipyard and has contracted mesothelioma, please fill out the form at the bottom of this page to receive free information regarding your rights to compensation.

Resources/Further Reading

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