U.S.S. Julius A. Furer FFG 6 (Guided Missile Frigate)
A frigate of the Brooke Class, Julius A. Furer was built by the Bath Iron Works in Bath Maine and commissioned into the US Navy in 1967. Originally designated as a guided missile destroyer, Furer would be re-designated as a frigate during the US Navy’s general reclassification in 1975.
During shakedown and training operations at sea in May 1968, Furer was suddenly rerouted to the waters near the Azores, joining units of the Atlantic fleet in the search for the nuclear submarine U.S.S. Scorpion. The missing submarine had been bound home from the Mediterranean and had not been heard from. Sonar reports from submerged sites triangulated an area of several large explosions, and fleet units began combing the area with active sonar, looking for the vessel. The wreckage of the Scorpion was not found until June 5. It was later determined that the vessel had sunk on May 22, the victim of a torpedo accident.
Furer operated largely in the North Atlantic, in conjunction with NATO allies, including the UK, Netherlands, and France, patrolling northern waters and monitoring the activities of the expanding Soviet fleet. The North Atlantic is rightly noted for the high seas and stormy weather which covers it, particularly in the winter months. Furer received damage from storms on several occasions during this period.
Furer also provided support to the fleet in the Mediterranean and Persian Gulf regions during its career, again tracking and monitoring Soviet fleet activities, but also providing shows of strength during times of crisis there. Furer was dispatched to Iranian waters during the Iranian Islamic Revolution and the subsequent hostage crisis.
In 1982, Israel invaded Lebanon. A multi-national naval peacekeeping force was dispatched to calm the situation. As Israeli pressure mounted, Furer, along with other ships, helped to transport the Palestinian Liberation Organization to safe haven in Tunisia.
Designed and built to protect surface ships from air and submarine attacks, by the late 1980s the ship was largely obsolete, with its designed speed and maneuverability no longer able to keep up with evolving submarine and aircraft threats. It also found itself to be slower than most of the ships in the task groups it was intended to protect. Accordingly, to defray costs of upkeep, Furer was decommissioned in 1989 and after service with the Pakistani Navy, transferred to the Maritime Administration for disposal.
Asbestos Exposure on U.S.S. Julius A. Furer
Built at Bath Iron Works in the early to mid-1960s, Julius A. Furer was laden with insulating materials manufactured from asbestos. The extensive use of the material as thermal insulation was common to all shipyards of the period, and in some cases, asbestos was called for in the design specifications for the ship under construction.
In addition to lining the ship’s boilers, asbestos was used in several applications in the engineering spaces, including brake linings, clutches and couplers, and soundproofing materials. Other uses which were common at the time were in fire dampers, bulkhead insulation and fireproofing, deck tiles and valve insulation jackets. Valve packing made from asbestos was used for those valves requiring fire protection. The maze of pipes which is present on any ship was covered in lagging, an insulation material manufactured from asbestos cloth.
Serious asbestos abatement efforts did not take place until the mid-to-late 1970s. By that time, age and cost considerations dictated that ships like Julius A. Furer would not be completely cleaned of all asbestos materials, but that materials such as pipe insulation would only be replaced if other maintenance considerations required its removal.