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USS Mississippi (CGN-40)

The USS Mississippi was the third of four nuclear-powered guided-missile cruisers to be constructed in the series of ships known as the Virginia class. The fourth US Navy ship to be named in honor of the state of Mississippi, the USS Mississippi was in commission defending her country for nearly 19 years. Bearing the motto “Virtute et armis”—by valor and arms—the USS Mississippi was a decorated vessel having earned two Navy Unit Commendations, a Navy Meritorious Unit Commendation, five Battle “E” ribbons, a Navy Expeditionary Service Medal, in addition to numerous other awards that were bestowed upon her throughout the duration of her career.

Construction

The keel of the USS Mississippi was originally laid down by the Newport News Shipbuilding and Drydock Company, located in Newport News, Virginia, as a nuclear-powered guided missile frigate—classified as DLGN-40—on February 22, 1975. Sponsored by Miss Janet Finch, daughter of Mississippi’s governor, this vessel was launched on July 31, 1976 prior to being reclassified as a nuclear-powered, guided-missile cruiser—CGN-40—on June 30, 1975. Manned with a crew of 39 officers and 539 enlisted men at the ready to defend the freedom of their country, the USS Mississippi was commissioned on August 5, 1978 by President Jimmy Carter, the 39th President of the United States.

The 585 foot Mississippi displaced approximately 11,300 tons and was capable of achieving speeds in excess of 30 knots. Well equipped to defend herself, Mississippi was a double-ended guided-missile cruiser having weaponry located at both her fore and aft. Her armament included two MK-26 missile launchers for standard missiles and antisubmarine rockets (ASROC), two MK-141 Harpoon missile launchers, two armored box launchers, MK-46 torpedoes from two triple mounts, two 5-inch/54 caliber MK-45 lightweight guns, two antiship missile defense systems referred to as 20mm Phalanx CIWS (two radar-guided Gatling guns mounted on swiveling bases), and four machine guns.

Naval History

Post-commissioning, the USS Mississippi underwent a three-year period of trials and testing exercises (as was typical with new ships), including an extended training period at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

August of 1981 marked USS Mississippi’s first deployment to the Mediterranean. During this deployment, she served as an escort to the USS Nimitz (CVN 68) - witnessing the shooting down of two Libyan fighter jets by F-14 fighter jets aboard the carrier—and was ordered to patrol the waters off of the coast of Egypt following the assassination of President Anwar Sadat.

A second Mediterranean deployment ensued for Mississippi in November of 1982. Her tasks on this mission included supporting Libyan Freedom of Navigation operations and patrolling the waters off of Beirut. During this same year, in addition to receiving a Battle Efficiency “E” Award, Mississippi was recognized as the best all-round ship in the Atlantic Fleet with the Battenberg Cup Award.

Following a deployment to the North Atlantic in 1985, Mississippi underwent her first overhaul which was completed by September of 1987. This maintenance period ensured that Mississippi was outfitted with the most up-to-date defense mechanisms available aimed at further enhancing her abilities to fight enemy forces.

Operational exercises in the Caribbean in 1988 gave way to a Mediterranean deployment for Mississippi that endured from May to November of 1989. Serving in support of Battle Force Sixth Fleet off the coast of Lebanon, Mississippi’s orders were a direct response to the fatal attack of a Marine Corps Colonel by terrorists.

In August of 1990, Mississippi initiated a seven-month deployment as flagship for Commander, Multi-National Maritime Interception Force (MIF) in support of Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm—commonly referred to as the Persian Gulf War—which arose in response to Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait.

The Norfolk Naval Shipyard, located in Portsmouth, Virginia, was the site of a comprehensive availability for Mississippi from May of 1991 through August of 1992. During this maintenance regimen, Mississippi received enhancements to her antiair warfare (AAW) and antisurface warfare (ASW) capabilities.

The USS Mississippi was a participant in three counter narcotic operations in the Caribbean and carried out two deployments to Haiti from September of 1992 through November of 1994. In November of 1994, Mississippi commenced a rigorous series of training exercises aimed at preparing her for her final deployment to the Mediterranean.

On March 29, 1995, the USS Mississippi took to the waters of the Mediterranean in support of United Nations sanctions against the former Republic of Yugoslavia. During this maneuver, Mississippi participated in the naval exercise “Destined Glory” and led air strikes against the former Republic. This successful deployment concluded with her arrival back in Norfolk, Virginia on September 22nd.

Decommissioned and stricken from the Naval Vessel Register on the same day—July 28, 1997—the USS Mississippi was entered into the Nuclear-Powered Ship and Submarine Recycling Program in Bremerton, Washington where she awaits her fate of disposal by recycling.

Asbestos Risk on the USS Mississippi (CGN-40)

The naturally-occurring mineral asbestos—once deemed invaluable for industrial use, specifically by US Navy shipyards—is now recognized as a human toxin and is credited as the source of diseases responsible for nearly 10,000 deaths per year in the United States alone.

Incorporated into numerous products utilized in the construction and maintenance of ships—insulation materials, gaskets, valves, cables, paints, lubricants, and adhesives, to name a few—asbestos was widely used by the US Navy from the 1930s through the late 1970s. Estimates show that at the time the USS Mississippi was constructed—1975—asbestos use reached 1,217 million pounds in the United States. As a result of this widespread use, numerous individuals who served in the US Navy and who were employed in naval shipyards were exposed to the dangerous airborne fibers of asbestos and would years later come to experience its devastating effects.

Once airborne, asbestos poses its greatest risk to human health and safety. A variety of factors—dose, duration, composition of the fibers, source of exposure, and individual risk factors (e.g., smoking)—come into play when assessing one’s risk for the development of an asbestos-related disease. These diseases—mesothelioma, lung cancer, asbestosis, gastrointestinal cancer—are known for their extended latency periods, ranging from 20 to 50 years, which means that individuals may not be aware of an impending illness until they present with symptoms years after the initial exposure has occurred.

The effects of an asbestos-related illness can be devastating, and in some cases, can prove to be fatal. If you believe that you endured asbestos exposure during any point in your career as a navy veteran or shipyard worker, your first priority should be to seek out a certified medical professional who specializes in disease of the lungs (pulmonologist) in order to obtain a thorough physical examination and a detailed assessment of your risk factors. In addition to the physical hardships one must undergo with regard to maintaining their health throughout the course of an asbestos-related illness, the medical costs associated with caring for such diseases often impose a significant financial burden. Please be aware that compensation may be due to you from companies who manufactured asbestos products and did not warn against their ill effects and that this compensation may assist with easing the burden of your expenses.

If you have been diagnosed with mesothelioma, please do not hesitate to contact us for an information packet that will provide you with a comprehensive listing of support services that are currently available to you as a victim of asbestos exposure.

Sources
Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance Blog

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