The third ship of the US Navy’s fleet to be named after the city in Ohio, the USS Cleveland served her country in commission for over 44 years. She was the fourth amphibious transport dock to be constructed out of 12 ships that comprised the Austin class. Guided by the motto “Promptus et Partus” (Always Ready), the USS Cleveland employed a complement of 164 officers and 396 enlisted men and was capable of accommodating a marine detachment of approximately 900.
Subsequent to being ordered by the US Navy on January 25, 1963, the keel of the USS Cleveland was laid down by Ingalls Shipbuilding (Pascagoula, Mississippi) on November 30, 1964. Launched on May 7, 1966, Cleveland was commissioned less than a year later on April 21, 1967. Cleveland’s initial crew was led by Captain R. A. Hogsed.
Measuring 570 feet in length, the USS Cleveland displaced 17,326 tons (full) and reached speeds of up to 21 knots. Her propulsion system was comprised of two Foster-Wheeler boilers in conjunction with two DeLaval steam turbines. At the ready to defend her crew, Cleveland was armed with two 25 mm MK 38 chain guns, two Phalanx CIWS (radar-guided Gatling guns mounted on swiveling bases), and eight .50 caliber machine guns.
Homeported in San Diego, California, the USS Cleveland joined the Pacific Fleet’s Amphibious Force. Throughout the duration of her career, her primary duties alternated between Eastern Pacific operations and Western Pacific deployments.
The USS Cleveland’s first call to duty was to provide support in Vietnam during the Tet Offensive in 1967. Following the cease-fire in this area, Cleveland operated in conjunction with Task Force 78 in July of 1973 to conduct Operation End Sweep—an effort to clear naval mines from Haiphong Harbor.
A series of Western Pacific deployments—seven in total—ensued for Cleveland in the years 1974, 1976, 1978, 1980, 1982, 1983, and 1985.
The USS Cleveland operated as flagship for Commander Third Fleet from January through November of 1988. Upon completion of the duties associated with this role, she went on to assist with efforts to clean up the oil spill in Prince William Sound, Alaska that resulted from the Exxon Valdez disaster.
In 1990 and 1991, Cleveland was deployed to the Persian Gulf in support of Operation Desert Shield and Operation Desert Storm.
Two deployments to Central America in October of 1992 and March of 1993 called for the USS Cleveland to steam over 20,000 miles and transit the Panama Canal four times. During these deployments, Cleveland was considered to have played a major role in supporting law enforcement operations in what is considered to be the largest seizure of cocaine at sea in history.
Deployed for the fourteenth time in 1994, Cleveland served in the Western Pacific by assisting United Nations relief efforts in Rwanda, relocating the United States Liaison Office from Mogadishu, Somalia to Nairobi, Kenya, and supporting Operation Vigilant Warrior in the Persian Gulf by preventing Iraqi troops from massing on the Kuwaiti border.
Cleveland underwent an extensive period of repairs and endured the associated training cycle that accompanies such an overhaul in 1995. Subsequent to this upkeep period, she transited to the waters off of the coast of Hawaii to participate in the Rim of the Pacific Exercise (RIMPAC) ’96—the world’s largest maritime warfare exercise involving numerous international forces and hosted by the United States Navy’s Pacific Command.
A deployment in 1996-1997 brought the USS Cleveland to the North Persian Gulf where her involvement in training exercises earned her recognition as the first amphibious warship to participate in Maritime Interdiction Operations (MIO) in support of sanctions by the United Nations against Iraq.
Participation in RIMPAC ’98 was followed by Cleveland’s 16th major deployment in December of 1998. Operating off the Horn of Africa, she embarked a team of the United States Navy's Sea, Air, and Land (SEAL) forces in addition to a detachment of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) and stood at the ready to carry out an evacuation operation if ordered. Conclusion of this tour of duty gave way to Cleveland’s return to the Persian Gulf where she served as flagship for the commander of all MIO forces in the area.
The year 2000 marked the start of the USS Cleveland’s last full decade in service. In addition to her participation in numerous routine operations and her execution of continuous deployments, during this period of time Cleveland also assisted with the recovery efforts of Alaskan Airlines Flight 261 off the coast of Los Angeles, California (February 2000), she participated in efforts in the Arabian Gulf associated with Operation Iraqi Freedom (20003), she partook in the biennial training exercise Operation Bright Star conducted by American and Egyptian forces (2005), and she carried out maritime security operations in the Persian Gulf (2008).
The USS Cleveland’s return to San Diego on August 4, 2011 was followed shortly thereafter by her decommissioning on September 30, 2011. Ending her career as a highly decorated vessel, her time in service earned her many awards and honors. Among them were two Combat Action Ribbons, the Joint Meritorious Unit Award, three Meritorious Unit Commendations, the Navy Unit Commendation, 23 Vietnam Service Medals, three Armed Forces Expeditionary Medals, and eight Navy Excellence Ribbons.
At the present time, the USS Cleveland remains in an inactive reserve status in Hawaii.
Asbestos Risk on the USS Cleveland (LPD-7)
Exposure to asbestos aboard amphibious transport docks is of significant concern due to the extent of such exposure at these sites. Not only did these ships employ a standard crew of a few hundred individuals who are considered to be an at-risk group with regard to the perils that asbestos poses to humans, but these ships served as a temporary residence, vehicle of transport, hospital center, and humanitarian hideaway to an ever-revolving influx of thousands of members of the armed forces, civilians, diplomats, and refugees. The effects of such large scale exposure are evident today with nearly 10,000 deaths each year attributed to one of several asbestos-related illnesses: mesothelioma, asbestosis and lung cancer. These mortality rates are anticipated to remain steady until an anticipated peak in the year 2020.
The US shipbuilding industry was a major consumer of asbestos and asbestos products for a good portion of the 20th century, especially between the years 1920 through 1980. So impressed by the inherent properties of heat and fire resistance in the naturally-occurring mineral asbestos, the Navy mandated its use in over 300 products employed in the construction and maintenance of her ships. In addition, this “wonder” material was easily accessible, cost-effective, and provided the added value of serving as a measure of safety for crew members in terms of protection from the dangers common in environments—such as the interiors of ships—where high temperatures and fire prevention were of the utmost concern.
Extensive asbestos use aboard ships created an atmosphere where breathing in the surrounding air often meant breathing in airborne asbestos fibers. It is within the human body that asbestos fibers pose the greatest risk to human health and safety.
The extended latency periods (20 to 50 years) characteristic of asbestos-related illnesses are the underlying cause of why these diseases progress to advance stages with no apparent symptoms and ultimately, no definitive diagnosis. With ships such as the USS Cleveland just having recently completed their tenure of service, it is highly likely and unfortunate that we will continue to see the long-term potential health-risks of asbestos exposure in those individuals connected with these ships as we approach the next century.
Please contact our office for a comprehensive information packet outlining the vast array of resources, both medical and legal, currently available to those individuals suffering from mesothelioma due to asbestos exposure as a result of their service in the US Navy.Sources
Wikipedia–USS Cleveland (LPD-7)