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USS Mount Vernon (LSD-39)

The USS Mount Vernon was the fifth US Navy vessel to bear the name honoring the residence of George Washington and the fourth ship of five in the series of dock landing ships that comprised the Anchorage class. In commission for just over 31 years, the USS Mount Vernon bore the same motto as her namesake—“exitus acta probat” which translates as “the ends justify the means.”


General Dynamics Quincy Shipbuilding Division (Quincy, Massachusetts) was the recipient of the contract to construct the USS Mount Vernon on February 25, 1966. On January 29, 1970 the keel of the Mount Vernon was laid down. Launched just over a year later on April 17, 1971, she was later commissioned at the Boston Naval Shipyard on May 13, 1972.

Measuring 553 feet in length, the USS Mount Vernon displaced approximately 14,000 tons (full load) and was capable of achieving speeds of up to 22 knots. She was powered by two boilers working in conjunction with two DeLaval steam turbines and two propellers. Mount Vernon employed a crew of 18 officers and 340 enlisted men and was able to accommodate a detachment of 330 Marines. Her defense mechanisms initially consisted of four twin three-inch/50 gun mounts which were replaced in 1980 with two Phalanx close-in-weapons-systems (CIWS) and two MK 38 machine guns.

Naval History

Homeported in Southern California (San Diego and Long Beach) for the entirety of her career, the USS Mount Vernon was credited with completing fifteen deployments to the Far East with the US Seventh Fleet during her time in service to her country. A highly decorated vessel, she was the recipient of numerous awards, among them the Joint Meritorious Unit Award, three Navy Unit Commendations, two Navy Battle “E” Ribbons, three National Defense Service Medals, four Armed Forces Expeditionary Medals, and two Humanitarian Service Medals.

At the onset of her career, Mount Vernon deployed to the Western Pacific where she served in support of the Vietnam War through 1975. She was an active participant in Operation Frequent Wind—the evacuation of more than 7,000 Americans and Vietnamese from South Vietnam during the final two days (April 29th-30th) of this conflict.

As time progressed, Mount Vernon went on to conduct operations in the Persian Gulf from October 1987 through February 1988. She then went on to serve as Control Ship in the face of the Exxon Valdez oil spill in Valdez, Alaska where she took on a vital role assisting with clean up efforts.

The USS Mount Vernon returned to the Persian Gulf in 2002 to support US efforts in Operation Enduring Freedom—otherwise known as the War in Afghanistan. Throughout the course of this year, Mount Vernon took part in Infinite Moonlight (joint military exercises with troops from the US and the Kingdom of Jordan) and Eager Mace (amphibious training exercises held in conjunction with Kuwaiti armed forces).

As Mount Vernon’s time in service neared an end, she served in support of humanitarian efforts in Southeast Asia and concluded her period of active duty as a participant in Exercise Northern Edge—a military joint training exercise held in Valdez, Alaska—in 2003.

July 25, 2003 marked the official decommissioning of the USS Mount Vernon at which time she was relocated to the Naval Inactive Ship Maintenance Facility located in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. Stricken from the Naval Vessel Register on March 8, 2004, she was later sunk on June 16, 2005 during training exercises off the coast of Kauai, Hawaii.

Asbestos Risk on the USS Mount Vernon (LSD-39)

To date, scientific evidence in the medical arena has proven that exposure to the naturally-occurring mineral asbestos is the only definitive cause of the disease known as mesothelioma.

Asbestos was widely utilized across a broad spectrum of American industries from the 1930s through the mid-1970s. Historically, the US shipbuilding industry was considered to be among the top users of this hazardous material with evidence documenting that the US Navy mandated the use of asbestos in more than 300 products employed in the construction and repair of her warships. With its proven superiority in environments requiring a substance that possessed resistance to instances of extreme heat and fire, asbestos earned a reputation as being a “wonder product” and established itself as the material of choice for a wide variety of industrial applications.

Asbestos poses its greatest risk to human health and safety when it decomposes due to age or when its friable fibers are disturbed during routine maintenance or demolition procedures. During these instances, asbestos fibers become airborne and thus, poised to enter the human body by means of inhalation and/or ingestion. Once inside the human body, asbestos wreaks havoc on the inner linings of the heart, lungs, and membranes causing inflammation, scarring, and the possibility of eventual cell mutation from a healthy state to a cancerous state.

Current mortality trends relative to asbestos-related diseases cite that nearly 10,000 individuals die each year in the United States as a result of past exposure to this toxic substance. Lung cancer deaths account for the largest portion of asbestos mortality rates with approximately 4,800 individuals succumbing to this disease. Mesothelioma falls second with approximately 2,500 deaths. Asbestosis and gastrointestinal cancer comprise the remaining population accounting for approximately 1,400 and 1,200 deaths, respectively.

Extended latency periods—ranging anywhere from 20-50 years—are commonplace amongst asbestos-related illnesses. Consequently, shipyard workers and navy veterans exposed to asbestos during the construction phase or in-service period of vessels such as the USS Mount Vernon may have yet to exhibit any tell-tale signs of an impending illness.

If you have been diagnosed with mesothelioma please feel free to contact us to request a free information packet. It will provide you with a comprehensive overview of your legal rights as a victim of asbestos exposure, as well as detailed information regarding your health concerns and the support services available to you.

Author: Linda Molinari

Editor in Chief, Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance

Linda Molinari


Wikipedia– USS Mount Vernon (LSD-39)

NavSource Online: Submarine Photo Archive