U.S.S. Badger (FF-1071)
Badger was a Knox-class frigate. She served in the Pacific and made deployments to Viet Nam.
Design and Construction
She was laid down February 17, 1968 at Todd Shipyards in San Pedro, CA. She commissioned December 1, 1970 at Long Beach, CA. Badger was originally designated DE-1071 and referred to as a destroyer escort, as were the rest of her class. The term “frigate” was applied to large destroyers in the U.S. Navy until 1975, when hull designations were brought to NATO standards. Thereafter, large destroyers became “cruisers” and small, or escort destroyers, became frigates.
Badger spent 1971 fitting out and performing shakedown cruises. On March 16, 1972, she set out from Long Beach on her first deployment. The frigate rendezvoused with the guided-missile destroyer Benjamin Stoddert at Pearl Harbor and headed for the Philippines, arriving in Subic Bay April 7. There, Badger quickly loaded ammunition and took aboard a secure communications system. The next day, she headed for Da Nang, Viet Nam.
At Da Nang, the ship took aboard and ABC news crew and got a firsthand look at the damage enemy mines had wrought on the fleet. A merchant ship and the destroyer John R. Craig were both listing hard after encountering mines in the vicinity. Badger crewmen stood on deck with rifles, ready to pick off any mines spotted on the way, and the frigate pressed on to the combat zone. She opened up with her single 5-inch turret on April 11, beginning an eight-day period on the gun-line. She joined the carrier Constellation on the 19th as a plane guard. After a brief period in Sasebo, Japan, Badger rendezvoused with the guided-missiles cruiser (ironically designated “frigate” at the time under arcane Navy designations) Sterret as a search-and-rescue team for U.S. Navy pilots. She then joined the anti-submarine carrier Ticonderoga on sweeps of the Tonkin Gulf.
Detached from Ticonderoga on June 26, the frigate returned to the gun-line. She remained off Viet Nam until October 4, when the battle-weary ship finally returned to her homeport at Long Beach. She had put in more than her fair share of time off Viet Nam, and she would not be asked to return until the very end. Badger returned to routine duty in the Pacific, participating in regular deployments and exercises. She shadowed two Soviet submarines from April 22 to 27, 1974 in the South China Sea and headed back to Pearl Harbor for routine maintenance.
She was conducting a full power test after maintenance on July 11 when her low-pressure steam turbine failed. Unable to continue safely, Badger had to be towed back to Pearl Harbor, where she remained until October. In April 1975, the frigate returned to Vietnamese waters, this time in a more peaceful role. She assisted in the evacuation of what remained of South Viet Nam, including removal of personnel and aircraft, until May. She unintentionally assisted in further evacuations in September 1979, when she rescued a group of Vietnamese refugees from their sinking craft.
Badger was operating in the Sea of Japan on September 1, 1983 when a Soviet interceptor shot down Korean Airlines Flight 007. Diverted immediately to the scene, the frigate conducted search-and-rescue operations until September 20. Tragically, her efforts were in vain, as all 269 passengers and crew of the 747, including U.S. Congressman Lawrence McDonald, were lost.
Badger picked up more Vietnamese refugees August 9, 1988. Of the 104 people she had been ordered to recover, only 57 were alive when she arrived. After dropping her passengers off at Subic Bay, the frigate began closed off her last deployment with the Seventh Fleet. She arrived at Pearl Harbor on December 8, where she entered the Yard for routine upkeep. After this period, she began training cruises in Hawaiian waters that lasted until March 28, 1990, when she was temporarily assigned to drug interdiction duty with the U.S. Coast Guard. Badger remained with the Coast Guard until September 11, when she returned to Pearl Harbor and back into the custody of the U.S. Navy.
She was decommissioned on December 20, 1991 at Pearl Harbor. She was towed into the Pacific on July 22, 1998, where she was sunk as a target in exercise RIMPAC ’98.
Badger was featured in the 1978 miniseries Pearl about the attack on Pearl Harbor. Actors were shown instructing anti-aircraft crews on identifying Japanese aircraft. She was also indirectly featured in the 2004 movie 50 First Dates. In the film, the father of Drew Barrymore’s character wears a U.S.S. Badger ball cap.
Risk of Asbestos Exposure
Badger was a steam-powered ship built before U.S. Navy regulations all but banned the use of asbestos in ship construction. Asbestos would have been used throughout the ship as an insulator for her steam lines, boilers, and turbines. Any damage to asbestos insulation can cause it to break up into tiny fibers.
Inhalation of asbestos fibers is a proved cause of mesothelioma, a malignant lung cancer. There is no cure for mesothelioma, but treatments such as chemotherapy can be employed to fight the cancer. If you or someone you know served aboard Badger or worked on her in a shipyard and has contracted mesothelioma, please fill out the form at the bottom of this page for free information regarding your rights to compensation.