U.S.S. Marathon (PG-89)

Marathon was an Asheville-class patrol gunboat. She served in the Viet Nam War.

Construction

The gunboat was laid down at Tacoma, WA by Tacoma Boatbuilding Co. on June 21, 1966. She commissioned on May 11, 1968.

Service

Marathon conducted shakedown in Puget Sound before sailing south to San Diego to train for missions in Viet Nam. She embarked Rear Admiral Zumwalt on August 28 so that he could observe these missions in preparation for his command of naval forces in Viet Nam. The gunboat suffered several engine malfunctions in 1968 and 1969, necessitating lengthy repairs on the west coast. She was finally able to sail for her homeport at Guam on June 2, 1970. From Guam, she continued on to Vietnamese waters.

The gunboat arrived at Cam Ranh Bay on July 11. Four days later, she rendezvoused with her sister Canon, which had been ambushed on the Bo De River and struck by a rocket. Marathon escorted her out of the river for temporary repairs. Marathon then began marine interdiction missions, better known as “Market Time” operations out of Cam Ranh. She spent the rest of her tour on patrols up river, but did not engage the enemy. She sailed for Subic Bay in the Philippines in November.

The gunboat returned to Guam briefly before heading back to Vietnamese waters. She arrived in April 1971 and continued her work in Market Time operations. She shelled An Thoi Island on August 6, completing her second tour. Marathon spent the next five months at Guam, where she was overhauled. She arrived at Vung Tau on March 10, 1972 to begin a third and final Viet Nam tour. Once again, her time “in country” was uneventful, and the gunboat left in August.

Marathon returned to Guam and took up a routine of patrols in the Pacific. On February 19, 1974, she joined a group of gunboats in a simulated missile run on the carrier Midway and her battle group. Unlike her sisters, which were “sunk” by the carrier’s aircraft, Marathon was able to breach the group’s defenses and “launch” her missiles. She attempted to build on her success on the 23rd, but a failure in one of her gas turbines forced the gunboat back to port.

Marathon was at sea for another exercise on April 18 when a fuel line burst in her engine room. Ignited by her turbines, the fuel burned through her engine room and into crew berthing spaces. She was towed back to port and placed on a mobile dry dock for repairs. Back in service later that year, Marathon joined several of her sisters as she transferred back to the mainland. She arrived at Chicago on November 12 and conducted training exercises for Navy recruits.

With sisters Asheville and Crockett, she sailed for a new homeport in Little Creek, VA on June 1, 1976. She arrived on the 25th, and after several months of normal operations she received notice that she would be decommissioned.

Fate

Marathon decommissioned on January 31, 1977 at Portsmouth, VA. Her weapons were removed and she was transferred to the Massachusetts Maritime Academy on April 18. Her fate after this is unknown.

Risk of Asbestos Exposure

Marathon was built when U.S. Navy regulations required all steam-powered vessels to be heavily insulated with asbestos. The ship herself used a combined diesel or turbine (CODOG) system, however, so she was not severely contaminated as her larger contemporaries were. Some asbestos may have been present in vinyl deck tiles and fireproof suits aboard the ship.

Asbestos products break down into tiny fibers when damaged or worn. Inhalation of these fibers is a proven cause of mesothelioma, a malignant lung cancer. There is no cure for mesothelioma, but treatments such as chemotherapy can be employed to fight the disease.

If you or someone you know served aboard Marathon 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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