The USS Hewitt (DD-966) served in the U.S. Navy for nearly three decades at the end of the 20th century. She was named for Rear Admiral Henry Kent Hewitt, a U.S. Navy officer during the middle of the 20th century. Hewitt was built as a Spruance-class ship.
Hewitt was laid down in Pascagoula, Mississippi, by Litton Ingalls in July 1973. She was launched in August 1974 and commissioned in September 1976. Hewitt carried a crew of 296 and had a cruising speed of 30 knots. She was armed with two five-inch 54 RFs, one Sea Sparrow missile, and six 12.75-inch MK 32s. She also featured a helicopter and attendant equipment.
Hewitt began her tenure in the U.S. Navy with a deployment to the Western Pacific in 1978. There, she was part of a good-will mission visiting Australia, New Zealand, Fiji, and Hong Kong. In 1980, she participated in a Rim-of-the-Pacific (RIMPAC) multi-national exercise before leaving on a second deployment to the Indian Ocean. The goal of this second deployment was to protect global access to oil reserves in the Middle East and lobby for the release of 52 American hostages being held in Iran.
In 1981, Hewitt underwent a standard overhaul at Long Beach Naval Shipyard. She then embarked on her third deployment, which included fleet exercises in the South China Sea. A fourth deployment in 1984 included Naval Gunfire Support (NGFS) exercises, as well as operations near the Gulf of Oman. In 1985, Hewitt was deployed to hunt submarines in the Eastern Pacific with a fleet of sister ships.
In 1988, Hewitt underwent another major overhaul, during which she received a vertical launch system and new missile and sonar equipment. Thus equipped, she spent the following years operating in the South Pacific, training with other nations’ navies and helping to keep the peace in the Middle East. In 1997, the ship was modified to include sleeping berths for female sailors, bringing her into the modern era and reflecting major changes in the makeup of the armed forces.
Hewitt sailed on her last voyage in 2001, supporting UN sanctions against Iraq. Upon her return to the US later that year, the vessel was decommissioned after nearly three decades of service. She was broken up and sold for scrap in 2002.
Asbestos Risk on the USS Hewitt (DD-966)
Because asbestos-containing material was used throughout the ship, practically everyone on board Hewitt had the potential to be exposed to asbestos. Those working on engines and boilers had nearly constant exposure. The exposure risk to sailors outside of engineering was less, but still significant.
Hewitt was first laid down just as the true dangers of asbestos were becoming known, but before the EPA restricted its use. It’s likely that shipbuilders involved in her construction and overhaul suffered significant exposure as well. Asbestos has been linked to mesothelioma and other serious illnesses. And because these diseases can often take decades to develop, veterans of the Hewitt may yet become ill. Learn about mesothelioma, treatment options, and your legal rights by requesting our free information packet. Just complete the form on this page to receive yours.Sources