USS Briscoe (DD-977)
The USS Briscoe (DD-977) served in the U.S. Navy for two and a half decades in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. She was named for Admiral Robert Pearce Briscoe who commanded two ships, an amphibious group, and a destroyer squadron in World War II. Briscoe was designed as a Spruance-class destroyer.
Briscoe was laid down at Pascagoula, Mississippi by the Litton Ingalls Shipbuilding Corporation in July 1975, launched in December 1976, and commissioned in June 1978 with Commander Frank H. Thomas, Jr., in command. At 563 feet long, Briscoe carried a crew of 296 and was armed with two five-inch rapid fire guns, a surface-to-air missile system, an anti-submarine rocket launcher, six 12.75-inch anti-submarine torpedo tubes, and one helicopter.
Briscoe operated out of Norfolk, Virginia following commissioning and conducted operations there into the early 1980s. She was declared the top ship in the Atlantic Fleet in 1980 when she was awarded the Battenburg Cup. Briscoe visited Belgium in 1986 and, in 1990, took part in the liberation of Grenada and also operated off the coast of Lebanon. She was then deployed to the North Red Sea on two occasions with Middle East Forces, in support of U.N. sanctions against Iraq.
Briscoe sailed to the North Red Sea again in March 1994, and commanded the rescue efforts for over 500 passengers of an Egyptian passenger ferry. The destroyer was deployed to the Mediterranean and Black Sea for six months in 1996, served in the Arabian Gulf to support U.N. sanctions in 1998, and conducted the burial at sea of John F. Kennedy, Jr. in May 1999. Briscoe operated in the Mediterranean and Arabian Gulf for six months in 2000, and took part in aerial defense efforts following the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States.
In March 2002, Briscoe participated in a NATO exercise in Poland, Norway, and the Baltic Sea, which involved over 26,000 military personnel. Briscoe then escorted aircraft carrier Harry S. Truman to the Mediterranean and Arabian Sea in December 2002. The destroyer was decommissioned at Norfolk in October 2003. Struck from the Navy list in April 2004, Briscoe was sunk off North Carolina as a training target in August 2005.
Asbestos Risk on the USS Briscoe (DD-977)
Ever since late in the 1800s, asbestos has been extensively used in factory workplaces. Asbestos insulation has also been used in the design of naval vessels like the USS Briscoe. Warships contain a number of pieces of equipment that produce large amounts of heat, such as boilers and engines. The engine and power rooms of Briscoe employed asbestos heavily to insulate conduits, to protect steam boilers, and to insulate elements of the ship's motors or turbines.
Many crewmen stationed or doing repairs on Briscoe may have been exposed to asbestos while working on the ship. Certain jobs presented a higher risk; for example, boiler operators would often wear asbestos-lined gloves or aprons. They may have also had to remove or replace asbestos insulation. In the process of doing that they may have caused tiny asbestos particles to be released into the air where they could easily be inhaled in large concentrations over time.
The development of pleural and peritoneal mesothelioma is correlated strongly with the overall level of asbestos exposure as well as the duration of exposure. Those who inhaled or ingested asbestos while on the USS Briscoe, may be at risk for developing mesothelioma cancer.