The USS John Hancock (DD-981) served in the U.S. Navy for over two decades at the end of the 20th century. She was named for John Hancock, President of the Massachusetts Provincial Congress as well as the Continental Congress, first signer of the Declaration of Independence, and Governor of Massachusetts. John Hancock was built as a member of the Spruance class of naval vessels.
John Hancock was laid down at Pascagoula, Mississippi by the Litton Ingalls Shipbuilding Corporation in January 1976, launched in September 1977, and commissioned in March 1979 with Commander Ronald C. Wilgenbusch in command. Measuring 563 feet long, John Hancock had a displacement of 7,800 tons and carried a crew of 296. The destroyer 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.
John Hancock operated in the Atlantic and the Mediterranean during the early 1980s, during which the destroyer served as an escort for aircraft carrier Dwight D. Eisenhower in the Atlantic. Based at Pascagoula in December 1989, John Hancock was rebased to the Naval Station at Mayport, Florida by May 1993. John Hancock was deployed to the Red Sea in March 1994 and took part in United Nations sanction-related operations against Iraq.
John Hancock was reassigned to Destroyer Squadron 24 in July 1995, and sailed to sea as Hurricane Fran threatened Florida in September 1996. She was then assigned to naval hazardous waste tests along with Wasp, Carl Vinson, Anchorage, and George Washington. In April 1997, John Hancock was deployed to the Mediterranean, Adriatic Sea, the Red Sea, and the Persian Gulf with John F. Kennedy. During this deployment, John Hancock conducted surveillance, humanitarian assistance, rescue, and embassy support duties.
John Hancock participated in a fleet exercise off Tunisia in August, during which she conducted a maritime interdiction demonstration using patrol boats involved in the operation. In September and October, John Hancock took part in a 12-nation exercise with the 6th Fleet and, following six months of Mediterranean and Middle East operations, returned home in late October. John Hancock was decommissioned in October 2000, and broken up for scrap by International Shipbreakers Ltd, LLC in April 2007.
Asbestos Risk on the USS John Hancock (DD-981)
Beginning around late in the 1800s, the mineral asbestos was widely employed in industrial and construction environments. Naval ships like John Hancock, although built towards the end of the asbestos-using era, utilized asbestos as insulation for their engineering sections. Because asbestos is a very efficient insulator, it was often a major component of the parts on a naval vessel that produced heat such as pumps and engines.
No matter what job a sailor performed, their service aboard a Navy ship meant potential exposure to harmful asbestos. Some jobs had a potentially higher level of exposure, however. Sailors working in the engine room, maintaining heavy machinery, dealing with fire, or repairing damage were considerably more likely to inhale asbestos on the job. Asbestos which becomes damaged or disrupted may become "friable". When that occurs, tiny asbestos fibers can separate and become airborne where they can easily be ingested. The inhalation and swallowing of asbestos over time can eventually lead to mesothelioma. Veterans coping with mesothelioma and other asbestos-related diseases may be eligible to receive compensation for their injury.Sources