U.S.S. Brooke FFG-1 (Guided Missile Frigate)
Originally designed and classified as DEG 1, U.S.S. Brooke was built by Lockheed Shipbuilding and Construction Company in Seattle, WA. Brooke was commissioned in 1966 for service with the Pacific Fleet. It was assigned to San Diego as its home port.
As the primary means of defense against aircraft shifted from guns to missiles, the ability to deploy suitable defenses on smaller ships became apparent. The role was assigned to the destroyer escort, which during the Second World War had been developed for the purpose of escorting convoys.
Brooke was the first ship of its class, and the first destroyer escort to be primarily armed with missiles. In the mid-1970s the Navy re-designated vessels so equipped as frigates, a term the US Navy had not used for many years, but which had been used by allied navies, such as the Royal Navy, continuously for decades.
Throughout its career, Brooke made numerous cruises to the western Pacific, and served several combat tours in the waters off Vietnam, including providing anti-aircraft protection for the aircraft carriers on Yankee Station in the Gulf of Tonkin. The first of its combat tours occurred in 1968. The ship would return to the war several times, operating out of Subic Bay in the Philippines.
After hostilities in Vietnam ended, Brooke performed the normal duties of a ship of its class, serving in task groups centered by an aircraft carrier. West Pacific cruises continued to be a normal part of the ships annual routine. Lengthy periods at sea also dictated the need for extended periods in port for routine maintenance and repairs.
In 1979 Brooke was awarded the battle efficiency “E” award, an honor granted for the most combat-ready ship of its class.
In 1983, Brooke was among the first ships to arrive at the scene of the Korean Air Lines flight 007, which had been shot down by the Soviets as it approached the Sakhalin Peninsula. Taking part in the original search and rescue mission, which quickly evolved into an operation to recover as much debris and evidence as possible, Brooke found its efforts hindered by the Soviet Navy, which was trying to establish a false crash site. Ships from many nations participated in the effort to recover debris, and with diplomatic tensions running high the possibility of an armed confrontation with the Soviets loomed.
Brooke received the Meritorious Unit Commendation for its service during this operation.
Decommissioned in 1988, Brooke was transferred Pakistan. Returned to the United States in 1994 the ship was sold for scrap the following year.
Asbestos Exposure in U.S.S. Brooke
Extensive use of asbestos in shipyards at the time of Brooke’s construction ensured that asbestos materials were present in the ship throughout its service in the US Navy. Lockheed workers contemporaneous with those who may have worked on Brooke told stories of forming asbestos into “snowballs” and playing with them during breaks.
On Brooke, asbestos would have been present in the ship’s boilers, in gaskets and seals, in deck tiles, as fireproofing of steel components, in electrical panels and wiring insulation and in the lagging which wrapped the hundreds of yards of piping requiring thermal insulation. Asbestos dust, which occurs as the materials are damaged or deteriorate, would have been released into the ship’s atmosphere and distributed by vibrations, the ships ventilators, or contact with clothing or skin.
The harsh environment which occurs in ships underway would have caused the deterioration of such materials to accelerate. Although serious procedures to curtail the risk of exposure on navy ships were underway prior to Brooke’s transfer from the US Navy, older ships were frequently not considered worthy of immediate attention due to cost concerns.