U.S.S. Farragut DDG-37 (Guided Missile Destroyer)
By the late 1950s, the focus of naval warfare changed from guns to missiles, both in ship-to-ship combat and in defending the ship from air attack. U.S.S. Farragut was the lead ship of a modern class of destroyers designed for this changing reality.
Constructed by the Bethlehem Steel Company at their Fore River Yard in Quincy MA, Farragut was commissioned in 1960, named for Admiral David Farragut, the first man to hold that rank in the United States Navy.
Farragut served its career primarily in the Atlantic, operating in the North Atlantic and with the Sixth Fleet in the Mediterranean, participating in NATO operations and fleet exercises and training cruises.
In May 1962, Farragut was the first ship on the scene to recover astronaut Scott Carpenter and his Mercury spacecraft, which due to technical problems had overflown its intended target by over two hundred miles. Farragut stood by while helicopters from U.S.S. Intrepid recovered the astronaut from his life raft and the Aurora 7 capsule.
Farragut was the flagship for the UNITAS XIII deployment to South America in1973. UNITAS is a series of evolutions in which US Navy ships circumnavigate the South American continent, operating in turn with the Navies of nations along the way, and return to the Atlantic through the Panama Canal.
In 1976 Farragut participated in the New York Naval review, in celebration of the Bicentennial of the United States. In 1977 the ship served as the host vessel for the America’s Cup races. In 1980 it participated in the birthday celebrations for the city of Boston.
1986 found the ship operating in the Mediterranean with the Sixth Fleet. Tensions with Libya had been increasing due to that nation’s support in international acts of terrorism, including the bombing of a Berlin nightclub which killed one US soldier. The American retaliation included an air attack on Libyan military installations. Farragut supported the operation with its radars and provided defense for Sixth Fleet vessels operating in and near the Gulf of Sidra. Farragut was awarded the Navy Unit Commendation for its services during this cruise.
The following year Farragut would be awarded the Meritorious Unit Commendation from the US Coast Guard for its services providing drug detection and interdiction in the Gulf of Mexico.
Farragut completed its last deployment in 1989. The ship was decommissioned in the fall of that year, stricken in 1992 and sold for scrapping.
Asbestos Exposure on U.S.S. Farragut
Throughout its long career, Farragut, like all destroyers, spent lengthy periods at sea operating in harsh environments ranging from Arctic cold to tropical heat. The ship, built by the Bethlehem Steel Company, contained asbestos materials in a wide variety of applications, located throughout the ship.
Asbestos was contained in boiler linings and seals, electrical panels, switchboard panels, bulkhead and deck insulation, ventilation dampers, wiring insulation and pipe insulation. Few spaces aboard were free from asbestos-containing materials, the pipe lagging which covered pipes ran throughout the ship, and deck tiles originally were likely asbestos tile as well, given the rampant use of them by the ship's builder.
Although asbestos abatement began in the Navy in the late seventies, it is unknown how much, if any, was removed from the ship during its service life. Often asbestos-laden lagging, for example, was merely covered with new materials, rather than be removed.