The coastal city of Galveston, located in Texas, served as the namesake for the USS Galveston. Only the second US Navy ship to bear this name, the USS Galveston was in commission in service to her country for 12 years. First in her class of three ships, the USS Galveston was later joined by the USS Little Rock (CLG-4) and the USS Oklahoma City (CLG-5) which were commissioned in June of 1960 and September of 1960, respectively.
Originally ordered by the US Navy as a Cleveland-class light cruiser, the USS Galveston was launched on April 22, 1945 by William Cramp and Sons Shipbuilding Company (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania) with Mrs. Clark Wallace Thompson—wife of the Texas Congressman—serving as her sponsor. On June 24, 1946, just as she was nearing completion, the USS Galveston was transferred to the Atlantic Reserve Fleet and her construction came to a halt. Remaining in a state of “limbo” for nearly ten years, the USS Galveston was resurrected in February of 1956 as she was entered into the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard where she initiated a reconstruction period that included extensive modifications and that would transform her into a guided missile cruiser reclassified as CLG-93. A final hull classification number of CLG-3 was issued to Galveston in May of 1957 as she prepared for her commissioning in Philadelphia the following year on May 28, 1958. Upon her commissioning, Captain J. B. Colwell took command of Galveston’s initial crew comprised of 1,276 officers and enlisted men.
The 608 foot, 4 inch Galveston displaced 10,000 tons and reached speeds in excess of 30 knots. She was the first US Navy ship to be equipped with the 3,000 pound Talos guided missile and the first vessel to successfully launch such a missile at sea (February 24, 1959).
After spending the first three years of her career mainly occupied by Talos missile testing operations along the US East Coast and in the waters of the Caribbean, the USS Galveston entered a shipyard period where she underwent a series of modifications from mid-1961 through mid-1962. Following these modifications, Galveston joined the US Pacific Fleet and embarked on her first overseas deployment (1963-1964) to the Far East as a unit of the Seventh Fleet.
Further deployments ensued in subsequent years as Galveston journeyed to the Western Pacific (June-December 1965) where she was an active participant in the Vietnam War providing air defense and performing search and rescue operations and later went on to serve in the Mediterranean Sea (March-August 1967) as a unit of the Sixth Fleet where she partook in a brief war between Israel and several Arab nations. October 19, 1968 marked the USS Galveston’s departure on her third deployment with the Seventh Fleet which was also her final tour of duty in the Western Pacific. During this period of service she supported combat operations in conjunction with the Vietnam War.
Returning to the United States in February of 1969, Galveston briefly stopped in San Diego prior to departing for the East Coast where she assumed duties with the Atlantic Fleet on a cruise to the Mediterranean which endured through October of that same year.
Upon completion of her final voyage to the Mediterranean, Galveston transited back to the US West Coast where she initiated final preparations for her deactivation.
Decommissioned in May of 1970, the USS Galveston was transferred to the Reserve Fleet for a period of three years at which time she was officially stricken from the Naval Vessel Register (December 1973). The USS Galveston met her final fate on May 16, 1975 when she was sold for scrap to the National Metal and Steel Corporation for the amount of $828,291.
Asbestos Risk on the USS Galveston (CL-93)
The USS Galveston, like many US Navy vessels from her era, served as a site of exposure to the naturally-occurring mineral asbestos which is today known to be a human carcinogen. All those individuals involved in her construction, extensive modification periods, and in the end, her scrapping, in addition to her nearly 1,300 crew members, should consider themselves to be at risk for the development of one of several diseases directly attributed to asbestos exposure.
Medical science has proven that inhalation and/or ingestion of airborne asbestos fibers can give way to the development of asbestosis, lung cancer and mesothelioma. In combination, these diseases are responsible for nearly 10,000 deaths per year in the United States alone. Mortality statistics relative to these disease states demonstrate a significant trend in their effect on men over the age of 50—claiming the lives of one out of every 125 American men who die over this age. These statistics are a valid representation of those commonly affected by asbestos exposure as the majority of those formerly employed in US shipyards and by the US Navy were males.
Asbestos-related illnesses are known for their extended latency periods which can range anywhere from 20 to 50 years. Therefore, it is likely that any one of these disease may exist in an individual previously exposed to asbestos without the person exhibiting any symptoms or having any knowledge of the ailment they are harboring. When symptoms of asbestos-related diseases do begin to present themselves, they are often in the form of breathing difficulties, chest pain, and excessive coughing.
The interior environments and inner-workings of US Navy vessels, in particular those constructed between the 1920s and the 1980s, were laden with asbestos. The Navy was so impressed with the heat- and fire-resistant properties, not to mention the relatively low-cost, of this easily accessible material that she mandated its use in a multitude of products incorporated into every area of her ships—from bow to aft and from boiler and engine rooms to living quarters. In short, there were no areas of US Navy vessels where asbestos exposure was not a threat.
As the dangers and ill-warranted health effects of asbestos exposure began to come to light towards the end of the 20th century, regulations were implemented to phase out its use. Surprisingly, however, asbestos continues to be used today with no official ban having been enacted. Predictions of mortality statistics estimate that asbestos mortality will not peak until the year 2020. Until a ban is put in place, this public health crisis will continue to evolve.
If you believe that your past service in the US Navy or employment by a US shipyard has placed you at risk for asbestos exposure and you have developed mesothelioma, please contact us for an information packet that can supply you with a listing of resources to assist you with exploring your medical and legal options.Sources
NavSource Online: Submarine Photo Archive
Naval History and Heritage Command
Galveston Class Cruiser