The USS Oldendorf (DD-972) served in the U.S. Navy for two and a half decades in the late 20th century and early 21st century. She was named for Admiral Jesse B. Oldendorf, who served in the First and Second World Wars. Oldendorf was built as a Spruance-class destroyer.
Oldendorf was laid down at Pascagoula, Mississippi by the Litton Ingalls Shipbuilding Corporation in December 1974, launched in October 1975, and commissioned in March 1978 with Commander Lawrence B. Blumberg in command. Carrying a crew of 296, Oldendorf 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.
Oldendorf was launched in 1978 and spent significant time in the Pacific. The destroyer visited Seattle, Washington in August 1982 and then Australia, where she returned to in 1986. In November, Oldendorf became part of the first U.S. Navy visit to China in 40 years, and then operated off Hong Kong in 1991 and 1992.
In April 1994, Oldendorf participated in fleet exercises Eager Sentry and Native Fury ’94 at Kuwait, which involved British and Kuwaiti military units. Oldendorf was reassigned to Destroyer Squadron 23 in October 1995 and then was deployed to the western Pacific in December 1995 as part of the USS Nimitz Battle Group. She was dispatched to observe Chinese missile tests and military exercises in March 1996. A deployment to the Arabian Gulf for Operation Southern Watch followed.
Oldendorf operated off the southern California coast in April for a multi-force fleet exercise, and was deployed on a six-month assignment to the Indian Ocean and Arabian Gulf which began in November 1998. During this deployment, Oldendorf was part of Operation Desert Fox in December, against Saddam Hussein, and returned to the United States in May 1999. The destroyer took part in developmental tests related to radar and gun fire control systems in early-2000.
Oldendorf operated at the site of a commercial passenger jet crash at the Arabian Gulf in August, and helped recover the flight data and cockpit voice recorders. She then participated in the first Joint Task Force Exercise of 2001 in February. Decommissioned in June 2003, Oldendorf was struck from the Navy list in April 2004 and sunk near Hawaii in August 2005.
Asbestos Risk on the USS Oldendorf (DD-972)
The U.S. Navy employed asbestos insulation almost universally aboard ships and in shore installations until the late 1970s. Oldendorf was laid down at the end of the asbestos era, but before new rules and regulations regarding its use were made law. Asbestos materials were installed in many compartments and corridors aboard Oldendorf.
Asbestos fibers trigger malignant mesothelioma by injuring the mesothelium membrane. Because worn and damaged asbestos material created dust particles that were easily inhaled, work in maintenance and repair duty meant much greater danger. Because asbestos cancer has a long latency period, veterans of this ship may yet be diagnosed with the disease. The legal system offers recourse for sailors with mesothelioma.Sources