The USS Parsons (DD-949) remained on the Navy list for two and a half decades in the middle and later parts of the 20th century. She was named for Rear Admiral William Sterling Parsons who served in the Second World War and as a member of the Atomic Energy Commission. Parsons was laid down as a Forrest Sherman-class destroyer.
Parsons was laid down at Pascagoula, Mississippi by the Litton Ingalls Shipbuilding Corporation in June 1957, launched in August 1958, and commissioned in October 1959 with Commander William Ray Loomis in command. Measuring 418 feet, six inches long, Parsons carried a crew 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 had a range of 4,500 nautical miles at 20 knots.
Parsons began operations at her home port of San Diego in February 1960 and was deployed to the western Pacific in October. Arriving back on the west coast in July 1961, the destroyer reported to Long Beach Naval Shipyard that October for communications and anti-submarine warfare equipment upgrades. Parsons participated in coastal training exercises with the 1st Fleet from January to November 1962, which were followed by a tour of the western Pacific from November 1962 to July 1963.
Parsons remained in the San Diego area in the summer and fall of 1963, and then escorted Midway and Hancock to the western Pacific. Alternating duty on both sides of the Pacific, Parsons was then converted to a guided missile destroyer while out of commission at the Long Beach Naval Shipyard from January 1966 to November 1967. She was reclassified as DDG-33 in March 1967. Parsons was then assigned to the Cruiser-Destroyer Force, Pacific Fleet and conducted testing of new missile systems.
Parsons was designated the flagship of Destroyer Squadron 31 in September 1968 and then was deployed to Vietnam. During this deployment, Parsons operated with aircraft carriers at Yankee Station, where she conducted training duties and was the anti-submarine warfare training coordinator ship with her squadron. Parsons arrived at San Diego in May 1969 and also operated off Vietnam in 1970.
Parsons operated in the Far East in 1975 and was on call during the Iraq/Iran War in 1980. Decommissioned in November 1982, Parsons was struck from the Navy list in May 1984 and was sunk in April 1989.
Asbestos Risk on the USS Parsons (DD-949)
Asbestos-based products were found in practically every compartment of Parsons. The engineering spaces, boilers, and power rooms had a higher concentration of asbestos materials. Sailors assigned to damage control and engineering duties usually had the greatest exposure. The more often a sailor was exposed to asbestos fibers, the more significant their chances of being diagnosed mesothelioma.
The U.S. Navy’s heavy reliance on asbestos insulation and fireproofing lasted from the early 1930’s until the late 1970’s. Parsons was built during the height of the asbestos era. Many veteran sailors have been diagnosed with asbestos-related diseases after serving during this period. The link between asbestos exposure and naval service is well established. Navy veterans can seek compensation from the companies that made the asbestos products used on the ships they sailed on.
Haze Gray & Underway. Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships. DD-949.
NavSource Naval History. USS Parsons (DD-949).