The USS Spruance (DD-963) served in the U.S. Navy for three decades at the end of the 20th century. She was named for Raymond Ames Spruance, a U.S. Navy admiral who served during World War II. Admiral Spruance gained fame as the commander of the American forces during the pivotal Battle of Midway and later served as an American ambassador to the Philippines.
Spruance was sponsored by Mrs. Raymond A. Spruance and was the lead ship of her class.
Spruance was laid down in Pascagoula, Mississippi by Litton Ingalls in November of 1972. She was launched in November of 1973 and commissioned in September of 1975, with Commander Raymond J. Harbrecht at the helm. Spruance 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.
She was capable of producing 80,000 SHP and was powered by four LM gas turbines. The vessel’s displacement was 7800 tons, and the ship was 563 feet long.
USS Spruance was a lead ship in an overall class of 8280-ton destroyers. Following her construction at Pascagoula, Mississippi and a standard training and shakedown period, Spruance was deployed as part of the Atlantic fleet. Much of her initial decade at sea included cruises through the South Atlantic and many stops in the Mediterranean. In 1978, she made a voyage to Africa. Spruance also spent time in West Africa, the Black Sea, Northern Europe, and the Persian Gulf as part of the Atlantic fleet’s destroyer force.
In 1986, Spruance underwent a modernization overhaul. She was outfitted with a vertical missile launching system before returning to the waters of Europe and the Middle East.
During the 1990s, Spruance was deployed several times in the Caribbean as part of the US’s war on drugs originating in that region. After three decades of service in the U.S. Navy, Spruance was finally decommissioned in March of 2005 at Mayport, Florida. She was eventually sunk as a target off the coast of Virginia a year later, in 2006.
Asbestos Risk on the USS Spruance (DD-963)
Spruance was built at the end of the Navy’s reliance on asbestos, but was very likely to use the mineral in many heat sensitive applications. The efficiency and cost effectiveness of asbestos materials was hard to match with other products. While the dangers of exposure were better understood by the time Spruance sailed, it is likely that some of her sailors encountered asbestos fibers while unprotected. The greatest exposure risk was in engineering sections. Engines, turbines, generators and pumps all made use of asbestos materials.
The damage caused by asbestos can take decades to develop. The mesothelioma latency period is one of the reasons the cancer often goes undiagnosed until it has spread. While there is no cure for the disease, early diagnosis can provide better treatment options. For this reason, veterans of Spruance should advise their physicians about their Navy service and possible asbestos exposure.Sources
Haze Gray & Underway. Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships. DD-963.
http://www.hazegray.org/danfs/destroy/dd963txt.htm) Retrieved 5 March 2011.
Naval Historical Center. U.S. Navy Ships, USS Spruance (DD-963).
http://www.history.navy.mil/photos/sh-usn/usnsh-s/dd963.htm) Retrieved 5 March 2011.
NavSource Naval History, USS Spruance (DD-963).
http://www.navsource.org/archives/05/963.htm) Retrieved 5 March 2011.