U.S.S. LaSalle AGF 3 (Command Ship)
U.S.S. LaSalle was built by the New York Naval Shipyard as an Amphibious Transport Dock and commissioned into the Navy in 1964. After initial shakedown operations and completing the modifications and repairs as a result of those tests, the ship deployed with the Atlantic Fleet.
From November 1964 to March 1965, LaSalle deployed with the Sixth Fleet in the Mediterranean, Joint fleet exercises and NATO training occupied the ship throughout that time period. LaSalle returned to the United States in time to serve as Command and Control ship for the forces deployed to the Dominican Republic during the revolution there. The remained of the sixties found the ship operating in the western Atlantic and Caribbean, LaSalle supported NASA operations during this time, recovering the second (unmanned) Gemini space capsule to be launched.
In 1972 LaSalle was converted to and re-designated a command ship. Additional facilities to support command operations and the staff required to support them were installed and the ship deployed to the Persian Gulf.
Operations in the Mediterranean and the Gulf were to keep the ship overseas for the next seven years, returning to Naples, Italy and other overseas facilities for maintenance and upkeep. LaSalle assisted in the evacuation of American and foreign nationals from Iran during that nation’s revolution against the Shah and remained in those waters throughout the hostage crisis that ensued.
In late 1980 the ship underwent a major overhaul at Philadelphia, returning to the Persian Gulf in 1983. Operating as command ship for the Commander, Middle East Forces meant that LaSalle was heavily involved in the succeeding crises in the region, including the Iranian mining of the Gulf, the missile attack on U.S.S. Stark, and the Maritime Intercept Force during Operation Desert Shield.
In the late 1980s, LaSalle entered Norfolk, VA to be overhauled yet again, this time to prepare the ship to assume the duties as the flagship for the Sixth Fleet. Staff, communications, berthing and other facilities were altered or rebuilt to accommodate this new role.
Returning to the Mediterranean and now homeported in Italy, LaSalle was the flagship for the Sixth Fleet for Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom, as well as performing routine Sixth Fleet operations in the Mediterranean and Black Seas.
Control of the seas around Greece was considered of paramount importance during the Olympic Games held there in 2004, and LaSalle took part in providing security against seaborne terrorism.
In 2005 the ship was decommissioned in Norfolk, completing forty years of service to the fleet. The vessel was sunk as a target in 2007.
Asbestos Exposure on U.S.S. LaSalle
Ships built prior to the late 1970s, including LaSalle, contained asbestos in a wide variety of applications and equipment. Although by the time LaSalle was built some of the hazards connected with asbestos exposure were known, the use of the material as a thermal insulator was still common.
One of the most common uses was in the lagging of pipes, which ran throughout the ship. It was considered safe as long as the lagging was painted, which prevented the release of asbestos fibers into the air. Pipes covered with deteriorating or peeling paint, or the removal of the insulation to perform maintenance on pipes or valves, would easily release asbestos fibers into the air, where they could be dispersed about the ship.
It was standard policy in the Navy to replace asbestos lagging with a safer material, but only as a matter of replacing the insulation for maintenance reasons, and not to replace all of the insulation as a safety matter.