U.S.S. Worden CG-18 (Guided Missile Cruiser)
U.S.S. Worden was originally designated a guided missile frigate, built by the Bath Iron Works in Bath, Maine, and commissioned into service at Boston in 1963. After shakedown training and evaluation in the Atlantic, Worden departed for its home port, San Diego, arriving in November.
In its long career, Worden served in both the Atlantic and Pacific fleets, earned nine battle stars for service in Vietnam, participated in the first Gulf War, and conducted peacetime operations including drug interdiction working jointly with the US Coast Guard.
Early 1964 found the ship test firing its weapons at the Pacific Missile Test Range, qualifying on its various weapons systems. The shift from guns to missiles as the primary weapons of a surface vessel was well underway by this time, Worden was designed to defend itself and ships under its escort with surface-to-air and surface-to-surface missiles. The type of missile and its supporting equipment would change many times over the years; yard periods and training exercise would be a large part of the ship’s duties during its service life.
The ship’s Pacific service included numerous WestPac cruises, including operations in support of aircraft carriers launching strikes against North Vietnamese positions. Worden acted as plane guard, search and rescue ship and as a radar picket during these operations, as well as assuming other duties as circumstances required.
Worden was damaged and suffered casualties in 1972 in a “friendly fire” incident involving missiles launched by US support aircraft. There were ten casualties in this incident, including one dead. After brief repairs at Subic Bay, Worden resumed its station, providing escort for U.S.S. Kitty Hawk.
After the armistice ended American military involvement in Vietnam, Worden participated in training exercises, weapons systems tests and evaluations, fleet exercises and other routine Navy peacetime activities, interspersed with periods of scheduled maintenance and repair.
In 1975 Worden was redesign Ted from a guided missile frigate (DLG) to a guided missile cruiser, (CG) retaining its hull number.
By the early 1980s Worden, now with Pearl Harbor as its home port, was ready to provide support for military operations in Iraq as part of the first Gulf War. Worden steamed to the Persian Gulf following the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait and served as the commander of anti-air warfare in the region, its air controllers detecting and vectoring coalition fighters to airborne targets.
Worden participated in drug interdiction operations in 1991, operated jointly with foreign ships, and participated in the enforcement of the Iraqi no-fly zone before returning to Pearl Harbor for decommissioning in 1993. The ship was sunk as a target in June 2000.
Asbestos Exposure on U.S.S. Worden
At the time Worden was built there were over three hundred different asbestos-containing materials routinely used in ship construction. Primarily used for the purpose of thermal insulation, either to protect equipment and personnel from excessive heat or retain it within systems, asbestos was found throughout any ship of the day.
Asbestos lagged pipes ran throughout Worden, penetrating every compartment, including working, living, and berthing and dining areas. As a ship moves through the water, a constant vibration is present, along with the necessary flexure of the ship’s hull as it reacts to the stresses imposed by the sea. The constant vibration and shifting of the piping systems could cause the insulation to deteriorate, releasing asbestos fibers into the frequently enclosed atmosphere. Extended periods in shipyards, a frequent occurrence suing Worden’s long career, increased the chance of asbestos exposure as well.