The fourth ship of nine in the Belknap class of guided-missile cruisers, the USS Jouett (CG-29) was the third vessel of the US Navy’s fleet to bear this name. She was named in honor of Rear Admiral James Edward Jouett (1826-1902) who served the United States as an officer in the Navy during the Mexican-American War and the American Civil War. His lineage included Matthew Harris Jouett—his father and a notable painter—and Jack Jouett—his grandfather and a legendary Revolutionary War hero. In commission for just over 27 years, the USS Jouett bore the motto “Eternal Vigilance” which embodied her mission to be forever watchful as a defender of the freedom of her country at both times of war and times of peace.
The USS Jouett was originally ordered as a guided-missile destroyer leader (DLG) on September 20, 1961. Her keel was laid down by the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard, located in Bremerton, Washington, on September 25, 1962. Sponsored by Mrs. S.J. Ervin, Jr.—wife of the North Carolina senator—Jouett was launched on June 30, 1964. Captain Robert S. Hayes took command of Jouett’s complement of 418 officers and enlisted men upon her commissioning on December 3, 1966. Later reclassified as a guided-missile cruiser on June 30, 1975, the USS Jouett was assigned the hull classification symbol CG-29.
Powered by two General Electric geared turbines, the 547 foot USS Jouett traveled at speeds in excess of 30 knots and displaced 7,900 tons. In addition to being outfitted with the most up-to-date antisubmarine detection and missile warfare equipment, Jouett’s armament included two MK-141 Harpoon missile launchers, one MK-42 5inch/54 caliber gun, two radar-guided Gatling guns mounted on swiveling bases (20mm Phalanx CIWS), one MK-10 missile launcher for standard missiles and antisubmarine rockets (ASROC), and MK-46 torpedoes. Her onboard aircraft included one small helicopter—a drone antisubmarine helicopter (DASH).
Homeported in San Diego, California, the USS Jouett launched her career as a unit of Cruiser-Destroyer Force, US Pacific Fleet.
At the onset of her term of service, Jouett’s early deployments consisted mainly of operations conducted in Vietnam (1968, 1972, 1973, and 1974). Patrolling the waters of the Gulf of Tonkin, Jouett captured surveillance photos of all aircraft operating in the area and carried out duties on Search and Rescue stations.
Later in her career, Jouett’s Western Pacific deployments (1981, 1984, 1987, 1990, and 1993) were concentrated in the Indian Ocean and Middle East. She maintained a presence in the Persian Gulf during the Iranian Hostage Crisis (1981) and participated in Operation Desert Shield by arriving in the Gulf of Oman on August 6, 1990, just four days after Iraq invaded Kuwait on August 2nd.
In her capacity as a guided-missile cruiser, the USS Jouett was the recipient of several awards: The Navy Unit Commendation (1990); two Meritorious Unit Commendations (1979 and 1986); and two Battle Efficiency “E” awards for her service spanning from January 1, 1976 through June 30, 1977 and January 1, 1982 through June 30, 1983.
The USS Jouett had successfully performed twelve extended deployments—all carried out through Western Pacific waters—by the time she was decommissioned and stricken from the Naval Vessel Register on January 28, 1994. Upon her decommissioning, she was transported to the Suisun Bay, California reserve. She remained at this location until 2007 when she was called upon to perform her final duty in the Pacific Ocean—to serve as a target ship to be sunk during an exercise known as Operation Valiant Shield.
Asbestos Risk on the USS Jouett (CG-29)
The motto of the USS Jouett—“Eternal Vigilance”—which once embodied the ship’s mission to be forever watchful as a defender of freedom is now applicable to all those who served aboard this cruiser, or who were involved in its construction, repair, or demolition, as they must now be forever watchful as a defender of their health due to the likelihood of their exposure to the hazards of a substance known as asbestos.
The naturally-occurring mineral asbestos was widely used by the US Navy, primarily for its superior heat- and fire-resistant properties. This substance was incorporated into numerous materials, ranging from insulation materials to gaskets, valves, cables, paints, oils, adhesives, and lubricants, among numerous other items. Incorporated into both the ship’s centers of operations (e.g., boiler rooms and navigation rooms) and centers of living (mess halls and sleeping quarters), navy personnel were literally surrounded by what would later become identified as a toxic substance.
Today, asbestos is classified as a known human carcinogen—cancer-causing agent—by several government agencies, including the International Agency for Research on Cancer, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Current statistics show that nearly 10,000 deaths per year in the United States can be directly attributed to one of four asbestos-related illnesses—mesothelioma, asbestosis, lung cancer, or gastrointestinal cancer. The extended latency periods associated with these diseases, ranging anywhere from 20 to 50 years, are reason to believe that the disease and mortality statistics for asbestos-related illnesses will remain steady or even rise as many of those that encountered asbestos during the 1960s and 1970s (when cruisers were being constructed and in operation) have yet to show signs of an impending disease.
If you have been diagnosed with mesothelioma, please do not hesitate to contact us for an information packet for further information regarding the vast array of resources and ever-expanding network of support systems in place to assist victims of asbestos exposure.Sources