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U.S.S. Berkeley DDG 15 (Guided Missile Destroyer)

U.S.S. Berkeley was an Adams class guided missile destroyer built by the New York Shipbuilding Company and commissioned into the naval service in 1962. Berkeley was designed and built to answer the changing demands of a naval destroyer in the late 1950s, its primary missions being anti-aircraft defense and anti-submarine warfare. Over the course of its career, Berkeley would earn eleven battle stars for service in Vietnam.

After initial shakedown operations in the Caribbean, including demonstrating its weapons capabilities to then-President John F. Kennedy, Berkeley transited to the Pacific, joining the fleet there in the spring of 1963. Berkeley was one of the earliest US Navy ships deployed to Vietnamese waters; it appeared there in support of U.S.S. Kitty Hawk and U.S.S. Ticonderoga in late 1964.

Throughout the remainder of the 1960s Berkeley operated in the Pacific, performing West Pac cruises and supported forces deployed in Viet Nam by conducting anti-air defense, plane guard and search and rescue operations. Naval gunfire support for operations ashore was added to the ship’s resume in the late 1960s and 70s. Late in the American phase of the Viet Nam War, Berkeley participated in mine-laying operations in Haiphong harbor, providing air defense protection for the minelayers.

Smuggling attempts by North Vietnamese small craft were interdicted by several vessels, including Berkeley, which sank over two dozen small craft during the attempt to prevent North Vietnamese and Viet Cong re-provisioning by sea.

With the end of active American involvement in the Viet Nam War, Naval operations in the Pacific changed dramatically, with the need to concentrate on Soviet naval operations superseding the necessity to prepare ships and crews for combat operations in the western Pacific. The increasing activity of the Soviets in the Indian Ocean demanded a US response and accordingly American operations in that theatre increased, with Berkeley taking its role there in 1974.

By the 1980s, modernized and armed with new weapons systems, including the Tomahawk cruise missile, Berkeley was had added the Arabian Sea as an area in which it had conducted operations in support of peace and American interests. In 1991, police duties became part of its operational repertoire, with Berkeley conducting drug interdiction operations in conjunction with the Drug Enforcement Agency and the United States Coast Guard.

In 1992, with the end of the Cold War and the associated defense cutbacks, Berkeley was selected for decommissioning and transfer to an allied navy. In October it was transferred to the Greek Navy, a service for which it then acted for another ten years. In 2002, Berkeley was sold for scrap and broken up.

For its service in the Vietnam War, U.S.S. Berkeley was awarded 11 combat stars.

Asbestos Exposure on U.S.S. Berkeley

As with virtually all ships built at the time, asbestos materials were used liberally on Berkeley during the ship’s construction. Asbestos was used in the manufacturing of thermal and electrical wire insulation, in deck tiles and bulkheads, as a fireproofing material, and in gaskets and ventilation dampers. Numerous glues and cements contained asbestos, and nearly all the lagging for insulating piping systems was manufactured from asbestos cloth.

During shipyard availability, and during alongside repairs, shipyard and other personnel used asbestos materials and equipment. The release of asbestos fibers into the air would cause it to be distributed throughout the ship via the shops ventilation system. Asbestos fibers could be deposited in any of the thousands of nooks and crannies inherent in any ship, to be vibrated into the air later by normal ship operations.

Use of asbestos in ships and shipyards was not seriously curtailed until the late seventies, and older ships, such as Berkeley, were not subject to abatement efforts due to the cost involved.

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