The USS Anchorage—the lead ship of her class of five dock landing ships and the first US Navy vessel to be named for Alaska’s largest city—served her country for over 34 years. Recognized as the most decorated ship of her kind on the US West Coast, the USS Anchorage bore the mottos “1st of its class” and “sui generis” which translates as “of its own kind/genus.”
Ingalls Shipbuilding (Pascagoula, Mississippi) was awarded the contract to construct the USS Anchorage on June 29, 1965 and subsequently laid down her keel on March 13, 1967. Launched on May 5, 1968, Anchorage was commissioned less than a year later on March 15, 1969 at the Norfolk Naval Shipyard (Portsmouth, Virginia).
The 553-foot USS Anchorage was powered by two DeLaval steam turbines, two boilers, and two shafts. She displaced 14,095 tons (full load) and was capable of reaching speeds of up to 22 knots. Anchorage’s complement was comprised of 53 officers and 771 enlisted men and she possessed the ability to accommodate a marine detachment of approximately 320 individuals. Initially armed with four twin three-inch/50-caliber guns, these mechanisms of defense were replaced in 1980 with two MK 38 machine guns and two Phalanx close-in-weapons-systems (CIWS).
Specifically designed to support amphibious operations by transporting and launching amphibious vessels and vehicles, the USS Anchorage initiated her career as an active participant in the Vietnam War. Deploying to the Western Pacific and the waters off of the coast of Vietnam, Anchorage supported numerous military efforts for which she earned six campaign stars. As the War came to an end and troops began to be withdrawn, Anchorage was responsible for transporting Marines back to the United States. Her final task in support of this conflict was her participation in Operation Frequent Wind—the evacuation of more than 7,000 American and Vietnamese civilians from Saigon during the final two days of the War (April 29-30, 1975).
Subsequent years brought further deployments to the Western Pacific and Indian Ocean for the USS Anchorage. In 1991 she supported Operation Desert Storm—a US-led and United Nations-authorized war against Iraq that was a direct response to Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait and that was supported by a coalition force comprised of 34 nations. Further activity in the Persian Gulf ensued for Anchorage as she participated in Operation Southern Watch—a campaign aimed at monitoring and controlling the airspace in Iraq—and later provided military support of Operation Enduring Freedom (War in Afghanistan) and Operation Iraqi Freedom (War in Iraq).
Decommissioned on October 1, 2003, the USS Anchorage met her ultimate fate on July 17, 2010 as she was sunk as a target during missile exercises 70 miles off of the coast of Kauai, Hawaii.
Asbestos Risk on the USS Anchorage (LSD-36)
Each year in the United States nearly 10,000 individuals suffer a fatal outcome from a disease directly linked to prior exposure to the naturally-occurring mineral asbestos.
The time period ranging from the 1930s through the 1970s witnessed an upsurge in the industrial application of a mineral that was praised for its heat-and fire-resistant properties coupled with its accessibility and relatively low cost. While asbestos use was widespread across a variety of industries, its use by the US shipbuilding industry, in particular the US Navy, is of notable concern. The US Navy mandated the use of this substance in more than 300 products employed in the construction and maintenance of her ships. In turn, not only were shipyard workers exposed to the ill-warranted health effects of what would later be identified as a human carcinogen, but numerous sailors who served aboard these ships in addition to numerous troops transported by these ships were also exposed. To broaden this exposure to an even greater extent, it has been documented that family members of the aforementioned individuals also suffered the onset of asbestos-related diseases as a result of second-hand exposure by means of contact with clothing and other personal effects.
Asbestos-related diseases are known to possess extended latency periods ranging anywhere from 20-50 years from time of initial exposure to the first signs of an impending illness. As a result, many of those exposed aboard ships such as the USS Anchorage may just be beginning to exhibit symptoms of disease and many may yet to realize what health challenges they will face in the years ahead.
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Wikipedia–USS Anchorage (LSD-36)
NavSource Online: Submarine Photo Archive