U.S.S. Lawrence DDG 4 (Guided Missile Destroyer)
U.S.S. Lawrence, named for Captain James Lawrence, who had given the US Navy the motto, “Don’t give up the ship,” was built by the New York Shipbuilding Corporation at Camden NJ and commissioned in 1962.
Lawrence had the somewhat unusual experience of conducting shakedown operations on the Great Lakes, using the St Lawrence Seaway to enter the internal waters.
Following shakedown, Lawrence arrived at Norfolk VA in time to deploy as part of a cruiser squadron establishing the Naval Quarantine during the Cuban Missile Crisis. During this operation, Lawrence actively shadowed a Soviet tanker, ready to stop it at sea if it continued towards Cuba.
For the rest of the sixties, Lawrence alternated Mediterranean cruises with the Sixth fleet and operations and upkeep on the American east coast. In 1972, Lawrence journeyed to the Pacific, performing a combat tour to Vietnam. That tour, in which Lawrence provided plane guard and air defense support, as well as engaging enemy shore batteries, resulted in damage to Lawrence’s engineering spaces, ending the ships combat operations and forcing a return for repairs.
Lawrence returned to the Atlantic, conducting Mediterranean and North Atlantic operations as before, interspersed with maintenance availabilities and overhauls. Lawrence deployed to the Indian Ocean via the Suez Canal and the Persian Gulf during this period.
By this time the well-traveled destroyer had developed numerous problems and maintenance issues, assuming the nickname of “Leaky Larry” from its crew. Maintenance issues and operational costs caused the Lawrence to conduct operations closer to home, in western Atlantic waters and in the Caribbean.
The ship served as the flagship for the 1986 UNITAS exercise, in which US Naval vessels circumnavigated the continent of South America, operating with the Navies of each nation in turn, and returned to the Atlantic via the Panama Canal. It was the seventeenth such exercise conducted by the Atlantic fleet.
The Lawrence was decommissioned in 1990, stricken from the Naval Register the same year and sold for scrap in 1994. That contract was terminated and the ship was resold in 1999.
Asbestos Exposure on U.S.S. Lawrence
When Lawrence was built, and throughout the first half of its career, the use of asbestos materials wherever thermal insulation was required in ships was commonplace. Lawrence was built at the New York Shipbuilding Company, a builder whose use of asbestos has been well documented.
The use of asbestos for thermal insulation meant that virtually every compartment aboard Lawrence contained asbestos, which would easily vibrate loose into the air during routine operations. Pipe lagging, in particular, would have been problematic, and as Lawrence aged the operations in which it took part would have increased the likelihood of asbestos insulation deteriorating, with fibrous asbestos released into the ship's atmosphere.