The USS Inchon was the seventh and final ship to be constructed as a unit of the Iwo Jima class. Designated as Landing Platform, Helicopter (LPH) vessels, Iwo Jima amphibious assault ships were the first of their kind to be designed and built to function in the capacity of helicopter carriers. The USS Inchon—named in honor of the successful United Nations’ led amphibious landing and invasion known as the Battle of Inchon that took place on September 15, 1950 during the Korean War—was the first ship of the US Navy’s fleet to bear this name. In commission for 32 years to the day, the USS Inchon was guided by her motto of “Never More Brightly.”
Ingalls Shipbuilding (Pascagoula, Mississippi) laid down the keel of the USS Inchon on April 8, 1968. Launched on May 24, 1969, she was later commissioned on June 20, 1970 at which time Captain Arthur H. Cummings, Jr. took command of her complement of 122 officers and 1,321 enlisted men and women.
The USS Inchon—measuring 603.65 feet in length—displaced 19,500 tons (full load) and achieved speeds of up to 21 knots. Initially armed with four three-inch/50 AA guns and eight .50 caliber machine guns, Inchon was later reconfigured to include two Phalanx close-in-weapons-systems (CIWS) and eight cell Sea Sparrow basic point defense missile system (BPDMS) launchers. She possessed the ability to accommodate as many as 25 helicopters at one time.
Newly commissioned and ready for active duty, the USS Inchon was assigned to the Atlantic Amphibious Force. Her first journey—to the Arctic Circle (May-September 1971)—was followed by deployments to the Mediterranean (August 1971-April 1972) and North Atlantic (July-November 1972). Inchon concluded the year of 1972 by initiating her first circumnavigation of the globe which she concluded in September of 1973.
Subsequent deployments in the years that followed were primarily focused in the Mediterranean with occasional deviations from this routine schedule marked by such excursion as those to West Africa in 1978 and to the Persian Gulf in 1990-1991.
March of 1995 marked the beginning of a 15-month conversion for the USS Inchon at Ingalls Shipbuilding as she was transformed from an LPH to the US Navy’s only Mine Countermeasures Support Ship (MCS). In this new role, she transported Sea Stallion Helicopters tasked with sweeping for mines. As MCS-12, Inchon transited to Ingleside, Texas—home of the US Navy’s Mine Warfare Center of Excellence and her new homeport.
The USS Inchon experienced a fuel oil fire in her central boiler room on October 19, 2001. The severe damage sustained as a result of this incident determined Inchon’s fate—the Navy opted to decommission her rather than pursue extensive repairs.
Officially decommissioned on June 20, 2002, the USS Inchon was stricken from the Naval Vessel Register on May 24, 2004. Shortly thereafter, she was sunk as a target during training exercises off the coast of Virginia Beach, Virginia.
Asbestos Risk on the USS Inchon (LPH-12)
Mesothelioma, asbestosis and lung cancer have all been scientifically linked to asbestos exposure. As these diseases are known to possess extended latency periods, it may take anywhere from 20 to 50 years from the time of initial exposure to the presentation of symptoms indicative of an impending illness.
According to historical estimates, US shipyards utilized approximately 25 million tons of asbestos while at the same time employing nearly 4.5 million individuals from the time period of 1930 through 1978. The resultant factor is what we are witness to today—an alarming rate of nearly 10,000 asbestos-related deaths per year. Of these deaths, a significant portion is believed to have ties to the shipbuilding industry or to prior service in the US Navy.
Gaskets, valves, insulation materials, pipe coverings, paints, and adhesives—these are just a few of the more than 300 materials mandated for use by the US Navy in the construction of her ships from the 1930s through the 1970s. Decomposition and demolition of these products over the years gave way to contaminated airspaces and the eventual exposure and adverse health effects associated with the release of asbestos fibers.
While the use of asbestos has been restricted to a great extent since the early 1980s, its use in the United States has yet to be altogether eliminated. Until a complete ban on asbestos and asbestos products is enacted and enforced in our country, we will continue to witness the devastating health outcomes that have been inextricably linked to its use.
If you served on the USS Inchon and have been diagnosed with mesothelioma please request our free Mesothelioma Guide. It is a detailed information packet that lists physicians and medical centers in your area specializing in asbestos-related diseases and can answer many of the questions and concerns that you may have with regard to your health and legal rights as a victim of exposure to this toxic mineral.Sources