U.S.S. Detroit AOE-4 (Combat Support Ship)
With the advent of the carrier based task force as the primary surface strike group the need for fast combat support ships to provide consumables for the ships of the task group increased. USS Detroit was built to accomplish this mission.
Detroit was built in Bremerton WA, by the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard and commissioned in 1970. After initial shakedown operations in the northern Pacific, Detroit steamed to Newport RI, taking the route around the Horn at the tip of South America rather than the Panama Canal.
For most of its remaining service life the ship would operate in the Atlantic, Caribbean and Mediterranean. After its first Mediterranean tour, whilst undergoing repairs and upkeep in Newport, Detroit had an explosion in an engine room exhaust stack which caused significant damage.
Detroit was designed to transfer cargo to vessels underway, receiving supplies from auxiliary ships and delivering them to the ships of its task group. It was capable of replenishing vessels alongside both sides of the ship simultaneously, which it did on more than one occasion, Throughout the 1970’s the ship alternated Mediterranean deployments with visits to the east coast for upkeep.
The 1980’s began with the ship, now homeported in Norfolk, running aground in Hampton Roads in 1981. It took four days for the relatively undamaged vessel to be re-floated, and resulted in the commanding officer being relieved of command. Detroit deployed once again to the Mediterranean and was present in the Gulf of Sidra during the confrontation between the US Navy and Libyan air forces which resulted in two Libyan fighters being shot down.
Similar operations continued throughout the decade, alternated with trips to European waters, including NATO operations in the Norwegian Sea and operations in the Caribbean. Detroit was severely damaged during a storm while operating in the northern European theater, which required the ship to put into Dunoon, Scotland, for repairs, a highly unusual activity for a ship of its size.
The 1990’s found the ship changing homeports yet again, this time to Leonardo, NJ, while continuing to deploy mainly to the Mediterranean and supporting NATO operations in the North Atlantic. In November 1998 Detroit raced from Leonardo to the Persian Gulf in what was then the fastest transit in the history of the combat logistics forces.
In 2005 Detroit was de-commissioned and placed in reserve. Transferred to Brownsville TX, the ship was broken up for scrap in 2007.
Asbestos Exposure on USS Detroit
During its construction and throughout its career, materials manufactured with asbestos were used on and present within USS Detroit. Asbestos insulation was used throughout the ship, manufactured from asbestos cloth, and subject to damage both when repairing the equipment being insulated, or from being jarred when repairing other equipment.
The ships boilers were insulated with asbestos, as were numerous other items. Many gaskets and seals contained asbestos, as did some valve packing, ventilation dampers and deck tiles.
The liners of the ships exhausts were frequently manufactured from asbestos, as were some electrical panels and wiring insulation.
Asbestos lined pipes ran through berthing spaces, dining spaces, work areas, recreation areas and machinery rooms. Damage to the insulation anywhere on the ship would release asbestos fibers into the air where they would be distributed throughout the ship on clothing and through ventilations systems.