The USS Morton (DD-948) was commissioned by the U.S. Navy for nearly two and a half decades in the mid-to-late part of the 20th century. She was named for Lieutenant Commander Dudley Walker Morton who served in World War II. Morton was built as a Forrest Sherman-class destroyer.
Morton was laid down at Pascagoula, Mississippi by the Litton Ingalls Shipbuilding Corporation in March 1957, launched in May 1958, and commissioned in May 1959 with Commander John M. DeLargy in command. Measuring 418 feet, six inches in length, Morton had a crew capacity of 324 and was armed with four 21-inch torpedo tubes, six 12.75-inch anti-submarine torpedo tubes, four three-inch rapid fire guns, and two anti-submarine mortars. The destroyer was driven by geared turbines and two screws and had a range of 4,500 nautical miles at 20 knots.
Morton arrived at San Diego, California in October 1959. The destroyer was then deployed to the western Pacific in January 1960, and participated in a joint Navy, Marine, and Air Force amphibious operation in March. Following a visit to India, Morton returned to San Diego before sailing to the Far East for duty with the Formosa Patrol. Morton also helped deliver food, clothing, and medicine to people in free China during this time, and then returned to the west coast in September 1961.
Morton sailed for the western Pacific again in November 1962, and served with the Formosa Patrol again during this deployment. In June 1963, Morton arrived at San Diego and remained on the west coast until August 1964. She was then deployed to the South China Sea during the Vietnam War and engaged in combat with enemy forces in the Gulf of Tonkin. Morton returned to the west coast of the United States in February 1965.
Morton served off Vietnam in 1966 and 1967, sailed back to San Diego in November, and returned to the western Pacific in October 1968. Out of commission from September 1969 to August 1970, the destroyer continued to serve Far East deployments and operate off the west coast until she was decommissioned permanently in November 1982. Morton was struck from the Navy list in February 1990 and sold for scrap in March 1992.
Asbestos Risk on the USS Morton (DD-948)
Service in any section aboard Morton could expose crewmen to asbestos-containing materials. Some parts of the ship employed asbestos fibers more heavily than others, like the boilers and turbines. Because asbestos-containing material was such good insulation, however, it could be found wrapped around steam pipes that ran all through the ship, and in equipment in nearly every compartment.
Dangerous levels of asbestos dust could also be found anywhere where work was done on Morton, such as the San Diego Naval Yard. Families of dockworkers that had never stepped foot into the yard were also exposed to asbestos fibers, because the fibers could cling to clothing and be brought back into the home from work. When inhaled, asbestos can become stuck in the respiratory tract and, over time, result in pleural mesothelioma. There are usually legal options for those suffering from asbestos-related diseases.
Haze Gray & Underway. Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships. DD-948.
NavSource Naval History. USS Morton (DD-948).