U.S.S. Truxton CGN 35 (Nuclear Powered Guided Missile Cruiser)
The fifth ship to bear the name of Commodore Thomas Truxton, U.S.S. Truxton was built by the New York Shipbuilding Corporation in Camden NJ and commissioned in 1967. The fourth nuclear-powered ship to enter the naval service, Truxton remains the smallest nuclear-powered surface ship built for the US Navy.
Truxton departed New Jersey in the summer of 1967 and steamed to Long Beach CA, arriving there at the end of July. It is proper to say a nuclear-powered ship steamed to its destination since the function of the reactor is to create superheated steam which is then used to drive turbines.
Truxton operated in Vietnamese waters in the late 1960s, serving as a plane guard for carriers operating at Yankee Station in the Gulf of Tonkin. The same duty occupied the ship’s time into the early 1970s, with Truxton claiming the credit for the last missile fired by United States forces at a target during that conflict.
After the US involvement in Vietnam ended, Truxton continued to operate in the Pacific, alternated western Pacific cruises with operations in and around Pearl Harbor and along the US west coast. Interspersed with these operations were normal availabilities for scheduled upkeep, maintenance and refueling of the reactor core.
The first half of the 1980s found Truxton continuing these operations, although the increased US naval presence in the Indian Ocean saw the ship make several sorties into that body of water. In 1986, Truxton was sent to the Mediterranean via the Suez Canal, in response to increased tensions there. Returning home via the Cape of Good Hope, Truxton thus circumnavigated the globe, after a deployment of over seven months.
By 1993, Truxton had completed its 14th western Pacific tour. In 1994 the ship transited the Panama Canal for the first time, patrolling the Caribbean as an anti-drug smuggling ship.
On October 14, 1994, Truxton was patrolling the Caribbean waters where, during the Quasi-War with France, nearly two centuries before, USS Constellation, commanded by Commodore Thomas Truxton, had engaged the French frigate La Vengeance. It was one of several engagements between the fledgling US Navy and that of revolutionary France, and several of the American officers engaged, such as Stephen Decatur, were given their baptism by fire.
Truxton was decommissioned in September of 1965 and disposed of by recycling at Bremerton, WA. The recycling was reported as complete in 1999.
Truxton was awarded seven battle stars for its service in Vietnam.
Asbestos Exposure on U.S.S. Truxton
By the time U.S.S. Truxton was built the dangers of exposure to asbestos were well known and documented. That did not mean asbestos was not used in the construction of the ship. Newport News Shipbuilding and Dry Dock continued to use asbestos in multiple applications throughout the 1970s, primarily as a thermal insulation for pipes.
Asbestos lagged pipes were common in all ships built before the late 1970’s, including the nuclear-powered Truxton. The absence of boilers did not preclude the use of asbestos in engineering spaces, in fact, the increase in piping and the lagging to insulate it caused by the several cooling systems required by nuclear power may have increased it. Asbestos lagged pipes ran throughout the ship, in nearly every compartment. Maintenance requirements regarding asbestos and potential for exposure began to be promulgated in the late 1970s and early 1980s, they were often ignored. Asbestos insulation was not scheduled to be removed unless it was damaged or required to support other maintenance.
The nuclear ship recycling program contains many classified operations and procedures and is conducted by the Navy, hence the amount of asbestos that needed to be removed during the scrapping of Truxton is not known.