The USS Merrill (DD-976) served in the U.S. Navy for two decades in the late-20th century. She was named for Rear Admiral Aaron Stanton Merrill who served on Indiana during World War II and as Commandant of the Eighth Naval District in New Orleans, Louisiana. Merrill was laid down as a Spruance-class naval destroyer.
Merrill was laid down at Pascagoula, Mississippi by the Litton Ingalls Shipbuilding Corporation in June 1975, launched in September 1976, and commissioned in March 1978 with Commander George N. Gee in command. Carrying a crew of 296, Merrill was 563 feet long and 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. She was driven by four gas turbines supporting a cruising speed of 30 knots, as well as a range of 6,000 nautical miles at 20 knots.
Commissioned in 1978, Merrill was then deployed to the western Pacific in 1980, where in August she rescued 62 Vietnamese refugees. The destroyer was then assigned to aid in the Navy’s testing of Tomahawk cruise missiles. Merrill continued to serve in the Pacific and on the west coast through the 1980s. In 1988, Merrill took part in Operation Praying Mantis in the Persian Gulf, during which she participated in an assault on an Iranian oil platform in April. Merrill returned to port at San Diego Naval Shipyard in July.
Merrill was deployed to the Middle East in 1989, and again following the Gulf War in 1991. During this deployment, Merrill served as the flagship of minesweeping forces in the Persian Gulf. The destroyer was deployed to Central America for a counter-narcotics operation in 1992 and, in 1995, joined the Abraham Lincoln Battle group for operations in the Pacific Ocean, Indian Ocean, and Arabian Gulf to track shipping in and out of Iraq.
Merrill operated during a major fleet exercise in the Pacific in February 1997, and was then assigned to the Indian Ocean and the Pacific with Constellation for a six-month deployment. This included operations in the Arabian Sea and off Pakistan. Merrill was decommissioned at Pearl Harbor in 1998 and then struck from the Navy list. The destroyer was sunk during a target exercise in August 2003.
Asbestos Risk on the USS Merrill (DD-976)
Civilian and military craft such as Merrill utilized asbestos products as insulation and fireproofing. After nearly half a century of heavy use, clinicians began to realize that asbestos-containing material was more dangerous than previously thought, and use of the mineral was heavily regulated in the 1970s. Although most of Merrill’s service came after these regulations were made law, she was laid down during the asbestos era and likely contained significant quantities of asbestos-based materials.
One of the most dangerous aspects of asbestos exposure is that it can take many years to cause its damage. By the time symptoms of asbestos disease are present, it is often too late to offer more than palliative care to asbestos victims. Veterans of the Merrill should discuss their possible exposure to asbestos with their physicians. Early detection of mesothelioma cancer may allow for more successful treatment options.
If you have been diagnosed with an asbestos-related disease after serving aboard this ship, please request our free mesothelioma information kit by completing the form on this page. The packet contains valuable information about mesothelioma, treatment options, and your legal rights.Sources