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USS Virginia (CGN-38)

First in a class that bore her name, USS Virginia was one of four Virginia-class nuclear-powered guided missile cruisers. She was the eighth ship in the history of the US Navy to be named in honor of the state of Virginia. In commission serving her country for just over 18 years, the motto of the USS Virginia was the same as that of the state of Virginia—“Sic Semper Tyrannis” or “thus always to tyrants” as translated from Latin.


Ordered on December 21, 1971, the keel of the USS Virginia was originally laid down by the Newport News Shipbuilding and Drydock Company as a nuclear-powered guided missile frigate—classified as DLGN-38. Sponsored by Miss Virginia S. Warner, daughter of the Honorable John Warner (former Secretary of the Navy), this vessel was launched on December 14, 1974 prior to being reclassified as a nuclear-powered guided missile cruiser—CGN-38—on June 30, 1975. Commissioned on September 11, 1976, USS Virginia employed a crew of 500 officers and enlisted men commanded by Captain George W. Davis.

The 585 foot USS Virginia displaced 11,000 tons and reached speeds in excess of 30 knots. Sufficiently armed, Virginia was equipped with two MK-26 missile launchers, two MK-141 Harpoon missile launchers, two armored box launchers, MK-46 torpedoes from two triple mounts, two MK-45 lightweight guns, two anti-ship missile defense systems referred to as 20mm Phalanx CIWS (two radar-guided Gatling guns mounted on swiveling bases), and four machine guns. She was propelled by two D2G General Electric nuclear reactors in conjunction with two propellers.

Naval History

USS Virginia began her career with six months of post-commissioning exercises and shakedown training conducted along the eastern seaboard of the United States and in the ocean waters surrounding the West Indies. Post-shakedown availability ensued for USS Virginia on April 25, 1977 as she entered the Norfolk Naval Shipyard for five months.

USS Virginia began her official operations as a unit of the Atlantic Fleet in September of 1977. She immediately partook in anti-submarine warfare exercises along the coasts of New England and Canada and concluded the year by conducting missile firing in the West Indies.

In the beginning of 1978, Virginia carried out local operations based out of Norfolk before departing for the Florida coast and the West Indies for a series of special testing operations which would endure through the end of March.

Another period of local operations through August 23, 1978 was followed by deployment to northern Europe where Virginia took part in the North American Treaty Organization (NATO) exercise known as Northern Wedding. This mission—aimed at reinforcing NATO forces in Western Europe—included visits to Oslo, Norway, Rotterdam, The Netherlands, and Portsmouth, England. Virginia returned to her homeport in Norfolk by the 12th of October.

The remainder of 1978 included training operations in the Gulf of Mexico, port visits to Mobile, Alabama and St. Thomas, and gunfire training near Puerto Rico. Virginia was back at her homeport by December 11th where she underwent preparations for her first Mediterranean deployment scheduled for the early months of 1979.

A deployment to the Indian Ocean in 1980 was later followed by USS Virginia’s third deployment to the Mediterranean in 1983. During this deployment she patrolled the waters off of Beirut and provided emergency assistance in the aftermath of a bombing of the Beirut Marine barracks.

The USS Virginia entered the Norfolk Naval Shipyard in 1984 for a major overhaul in which she was converted to the Navy’s first strike cruiser and her armament was upgraded to include the Phalanx CIWS in addition to the Tomahawk missile system.

December of 1990 marked the beginning of a six-month deployment to the Mediterranean for USS Virginia. Serving to support Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm, Virginia’s efforts were concentrated on patrolling the Eastern Mediterranean Sea with her sights on Israel, Lebanon, and Syria.

Recognized as the best nuclear cruiser on the East Coast, USS Virginia’s career came to an end when she was simultaneously decommissioned and stricken from the Naval Vessel Register on November 29, 1994. Aside from her missile launchers, which remain on display today at the Norfolk Naval Shipyard in Virginia, USS Virginia was disposed of by October 10, 2002 via the US Navy’s Nuclear-Powered Surface Ship and Submarine Recycling Program.

Asbestos Risk on the USS Virginia (CGN-38)

Naval vessels, naval bases, and naval shipyards were all primary sites for exposure to the toxic substance asbestos. This naturally-occurring mineral was once praised by the Navy for its superior capabilities to resist high temperatures and fire and for these reasons its use was mandated in over 300 products employed in the construction and maintenance of navy ships.

Asbestos is composed of bundles of fibers which can pose an extremely high risk to human health when these fibers become disturbed and are released into the surrounding atmosphere. Once airborne, these thin, yet durable, fibers can enter the human body by means of inhalation or ingestion and attach to the inner linings (membranes) of the lungs, heart, and abdomen. Over time, these fibers can drastically impact the cells of the human body resulting in the possibility of inflammation, infection, and the eventual mutation into cancerous cells.

The end result of asbestos exposure is the potential onset of one of several illnesses: asbestosis, lung cancer, gastrointestinal cancer, or mesothelioma. In combination, these diseases are responsible for nearly 10,000 deaths in the United States per year. The extended latency period typical of these diseases—15 to 50 years—suggests that we will continue to see these numbers remain steady or even rise as many of those exposed to asbestos in the past have yet to exhibit symptoms indicative of one of these diseases.

With asbestos exposure increasingly moving to the forefront of public health as an important issue worthy of attention, there are more physicians devoting their expertise to the study of asbestos-related illnesses. Likewise, with regard to the law, there are lawyers that specialize in helping asbestos victims receive compensation due to them for having been exposed to a hazardous substance without any preventive safety measures in place. Please do not hesitate to consult our website or contact us for an information packet that can assist you as you explore your medical and legal options if you have been diagnosed with mesothelioma.

Author: Linda Molinari

Editor in Chief, Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance

Linda Molinari


Wikipedia– USS Virginia (CGN-38)