The USS Paul F. Foster (DD-964) served in the U.S. Navy for three decades at the end of the 20th century. She was named for Paul Frederick Foster, a U.S. Navy officer around the turn of the 20th century. Paul F. Foster was built as a Spruance-class ship.
Paul F. Foster was laid down in Pascagoula, Mississippi by Litton Ingalls in November 1973. She was launched in February 1974 and commissioned in February 1976. Paul F. Foster 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.
Paul F. Foster began her time at sea in March 1978 as the very first Spruance-class destroyer assigned to the Pacific fleet. During her time with the fleet, she served in both the Indian Ocean and the Western Pacific, led a key group of destroyers, and participated in many large fleet exercises.
In 1983, the vessel underwent major modifications at Long Beach Naval Shipyard. As a result of the upgrades, Paul F. Foster became the U.S. Navy’s first all-electric destroyer. In 1986, the vessel played a pivotal role in Operation Kernel Potlatch in the North Pacific. She then returned to the US for a standard overhaul, during which she received a missile vertical launch system and new anti-submarine detection equipment. She was also upgraded with the facilities needed to support a more sophisticated submarine helicopter.
1989 saw Paul F. Foster deployed again to the Indian Ocean and the North Arabian Sea, and 1990 brought involvement in the Persian Gulf as part of Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm. During these engagements, the ship fired missiles on shore targets and assisted in the liberation of Kuwait. Throughout the remainder of the 1990s, Paul F. Foster participated in a number of key operations, mainly in the Middle East, including the enforcement of UN sanctions against Iraq. Her final deployment to the region was in 2002.
Paul F. Foster was finally decommissioned in 2003. The following year, she was designated as the Navy’s Self Defense Test Ship. As of this writing, the ship is still in existence as the last-surviving Spruance-class vessel.
Asbestos Risk on the USS Paul F. Foster (DD-964)
Although she was built at the end of the Navy’s period of heavy asbestos use, Paul F. Foster still contained the dangerous fibers in significant quantities. Asbestos was used in a huge number of products, and could be found in nearly every corridor and compartment on many Navy ships. By the time Paul F. Foster was laid down, the majority of asbestos products were concentrated in engineering sections.
Crewmen that had regular contact with asbestos fibers also have the greatest risk for mesothelioma later in life. Unfortunately, there is no guaranteed safe level of exposure. The diseases caused by asbestos can take many years to develop, and the symptoms are often mistaken for more common ailments. For this reason, it is important that veterans of Paul F. Foster and similar ships disclose their potential asbestos exposure to their physicians. As with many cancers, early detection often allows for better mesothelioma treatment.Sources
NavSource Naval History, USS Paul F. Foster (DD-964).
Wikipedia, USS Paul F. Foster (DD-964).