The USS Conolly (DD-979) served in the U.S. Navy for two decades in the late 20th century. She was named for Richard Lansing Conolly who served in the First and Second World Wars and was also an instructor at the Naval Academy. Conolly was built as a Spruance-class destroyer.
Conolly was laid down at Pascagoula, Mississippi by the Litton Ingalls Shipbuilding Corporation in September 1975, launched in June 1977, and commissioned in October 1978 with Commander Raymond A. Sharpe, Jr., in command. Measuring 563 feet long, Conolly had a crew complement of 296 and was armed with two five-inch rapid fire guns, a surface-to-air missile system, an anti-submarine rocket launcher, six 12.75-inch anti-submarine torpedo tubes, and one helicopter. Gas turbines supported a cruising speed of 30 knots, and a 6,500 nautical mile range at 20 knots.
Conolly operated in the Atlantic throughout the 1980s. She served during United Nations sanctions against Haiti in 1993 and then was deployed to the Arabian Peninsula in 1994 to aid in sanctions against Iraq. In July 1994, Conolly rescued 62 crew members of a Panamanian-registered ferry who escaped on life boats following an onboard fire. Conolly changed home ports from Norfolk, Virginia to Mayport, Florida in 1996.
In January 1996, Conolly was deployed with George Washington for a warfare readiness exercise off Spain, which took place in late February. Conolly visited Sicily and participated in amphibious exercises with NATO forces in March. She then served as an escort for Guam, Trenton, and Portland to Liberia from the Adriatic Sea in April. The mission consisted of routine training exercises but a search and rescue effort ensued when an airplane, which was transporting Commerce Department Secretary Ron Brown, crashed. Conolly also helped enforce United Nations Security Council resolutions in the former Republic of Yugoslavia, during which she examined 121 merchant vessels for contraband.
Conolly participated in an allied exercise in the eastern Atlantic off Spain in June 1996, and then conducted firing exercises in the central Mediterranean near Crete. Torpedo exercises off Sicily followed, and Conolly was decommissioned and struck from the Navy list in September 1998. She was sunk during target practice in April 2009.
Asbestos Risk on the USS Conolly (DD-979)
Because materials containing asbestos were used so commonly on board, practically all of Conolly’s crew suffered exposure at some point during their career. Crewmen maintaining and refitting engineering equipment were more heavily exposed, as were crewmen serving in repair crews. Breathing or ingesting of asbestos fibers is linked to a diagnosis of mesothelioma.
The development of malignant mesothelioma is related to the overall level and duration of exposure. Working around fire- or water-damaged asbestos components exposed Conolly's crewmen and shipyard workers to much greater quantities of dangerous asbestos fibers than those normally encountered in the ordinary course of duty. Sailors and shipbuilders harmed by asbestos often have a legal right to compensation.Sources