U.S.S. England CG-22 (Guided Missile Cruiser)
Named for a naval hero of Pearl Harbor who died in the sinking of USS Oklahoma, rather than for the nation and ally, U.S.S. England was built by Todd Shipbuilding and commissioned into service in 1963.
The ship would serve five tours of duty in support of fleet operations during the Vietnamese Conflict, from 1967 to 1974. Interspersed with regular overhauls, the ship operated in the Pacific for most of its service life. During these deployments, the ship served as a plane guard for the ships operating near the Gulf of Tonkin. Designed without a main gun battery, England was unable to engage in the gunfire support operations which were provided by surface units at that time.
The ship received modernization upgrades to its weapons and sonar systems in the 1970s and 1980s, helping to enhance its capabilities detecting and tracking airborne threats and defending its assigned task group from them. England also maintained anti-submarine capabilities, continuously upgrading its abilities to engage and contain the expanding Soviet submarine fleet.
In fleet training and exercise operations, England was tasked with the challenge of detecting and engaging enemy threats from the air, surface forces and submerged elements, while simultaneously vectoring friendly aircraft towards their targets. Its primary role was in providing defense capabilities to its assigned carrier task force, the main battle group of the US Navy from the early 1960s.
Throughout its career, England, interspersed with schedule overhauls for repair, maintenance, and weapons upgrades, performed its assigned role with the carriers of the Pacific fleet. England served in Desert Storm in support of fleet operations and the air attacks which began that operation.
By 1994 the excessive costs of operating the aging cruiser combined with the superior Aegis class ships that were operating with the fleet rendered England obsolete. In 1994 the ship was decommissioned and placed in mothballs in Suisun Bay. In 2004 the ship was sold for scrap and broken up in Brownsville, Texas.
Asbestos Exposure on U.S.S. England
Todd Shipyard, builder of the U.S.S. England used asbestos in a wide variety of materials it built into ships. Prized by shipbuilders for its superior properties as an insulating material, asbestos could be found in over three hundred different applications and materials aboard ships constructed during the time frame in which England was built.
Asbestos was used in the manufacturing of gaskets and seals, boiler liners, switches, electrical panels, deck tiles, ceiling tiles, fire retardants, epoxies and cements, wiring insulation, valve packing, and in the exhaust plenums for machinery. Asbestos was used for brake and clutching linings, winches and capstans, and in the cloth used to insulate pipes, commonly called lagging. Ventilation dampers and thermal blankets for machinery frequently contained asbestos.
Despite serious efforts to eliminate the use of the material beginning in the late 1970s, the extent of its use in the construction of ships prior to that time made asbestos removal in existing ships virtually impossible. Efforts to contain the asbestos aboard were limited to removing it only when necessitated by other maintenance and containing the rest by enclosing it with paint or other sealants.
In the harsh conditions found onboard an operating ship, paint deteriorates quickly, particularly when exposed to heat or the flexing which is required due to normal ship vibration and motion through the water. Exposed asbestos, particularly on pipes in hard to reach areas, could remain undetected for long periods, releasing asbestos fibers into the atmosphere where the ship's ventilation could disperse it throughout the vessel.