The USS Harry W. Hill (DD-986) served in the U.S. Navy for nearly two decades in the late 20th century. She was named for Admiral Harry Wilbur Hill who served in World War I and World War II and as Superintendent of the Naval Academy. Harry W. Hill was commissioned as a member of the Spruance class of destroyers.
Harry W. Hill was laid down at Pascagoula, Mississippi by the Litton Ingalls Shipbuilding Corporation in April 1977, launched in August 1978, and commissioned in November 1979 with Commander James J. Hogan III in command. Carrying a crew of 296, Harry W. Hill was 563 feet in length and had a displacement of 7,800 tons.
Four gas turbines and two screws could drive Harry W. Hill to a cruising speed of 30 knots, and supported a range of 6,000 nautical miles at a speed of 20 knots. She 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.
Harry W. Hill conducted trials in the Gulf of Mexico in late 1979. The destroyer was present during the 74th annual Portland Rose Festival in December 1982 and operated in the Pacific throughout the 1980s. Harry W. Hill visited Vancouver, British Columbia in April 1987 as well as Longview, Washington in June 1990. In 1991, Harry W. Hill served in the Persian Gulf during Operation Desert Storm, and returned to San Diego, California in June. During her Persian Gulf deployment, Harry W. Hill collided with Kansas City which resulted in a cracked sonar dome and other damages. Three months of repairs followed at Subic Bay, Philippines.
Harry W. Hill visited Australia in 1998 as well as other destinations in the western Pacific and the Arabian Gulf. Initially commanded by Commander James J. Hogan III, also at the helm of Harry W. Hill, at different times, were Commander John C. Pollock III, Commander Daniel Salinas II, Commander James Cutler Dawson, Jr., Commander Craig W. Turley, Commander William P. Craft, and Commander John P. Wallace. The destroyer was decommissioned and struck from the Navy list in May 1998, and then sunk during naval exercises in July 2004.
Asbestos Risk on the USS Harry W. Hill (DD-986)
Asbestos insulation has been used extensively in factory and construction settings since the Industrial Revolution and on board merchant and naval ships such as Harry W. Hill ever since the 1930s. Naval vessels employ numerous pieces of equipment that generate large quantities of thermal energy, such as boilers and turbines. In sections of navy ships where a greater chance for fire exists, like in the engineering rooms, asbestos insulation was used extensively to fireproof pipes and equipment. While the Harry W. Hill was built at the very end of the era of heavy asbestos use aboard U.S. Navy ships, it is likely that the ship still contained significant quantities of this toxic mineral. Crewmembers working in these areas were more likely to have breathed in higher quantities of asbestos fibers and thus, are at higher risk for developing an asbestos-related disease like mesothelioma.