The USS Towers (DD-959) served in the U.S. Navy for nearly three decades in the mid-to-late 20th century. She was named for Admiral John Henry Towers, a naval aviator who later served as the Chief of the Bureau of Aeronautics and as Chief of the Navy’s General Board. Towers was built as a Charles F. Adams class vessel.
Reclassified as DDG-9 in April 1957, Towers was laid down at Seattle, Washington by the Todd Pacific Shipyard Corporation in April 1958, launched in April 1959, and commissioned in June 1961 with Commander Lawrence D. Cummins in command. Featuring a crew capacity of 333 to 350, Towers was 437 feet long and armed with two five-inch rapid fire guns, a surface-to-air missile system, an anti-submarine rocket launcher, and six 12.75-inch anti-submarine torpedo tubes.
Towers was based out of San Diego and continued to operate there until September 1961 when she cruised to Peru, Panama, and Mexico and back. In the spring of 1962, Towers was deployed to the western Pacific, where she was present in Australia for the 20th anniversary celebration of the Battle of the Coral Sea and also visited Japan. Towers operated locally out of San Diego from January to May 1963 and then served in Japan and the Philippines for fleet exercises. From November 1963 through 1964, she remained in southern California.
Towers was deployed on a tour of Vietnam from January 1965 until May, participated in a blast test in the Hawaiian Islands, and then arrived at San Diego in late June. In early 1966, Towers took part in a joint United States and Canadian anti-submarine exercise and continued anti-submarine exercises off California in April. Towers then reported for combat duty off Vietnam, and was damaged on the return trip to California during a storm. The destroyer underwent major repairs at the Hunters’ Point Naval Shipyard from April to October 1967.
Towers returned to the war zone from September 1968 to March 1970, from January 1971 through 1972 and, after stationed at Pearl Harbor, operated off Vietnam again in January and February 1973. She operated out of San Diego from 1973 through 1976, and was then deployed in the Indian Ocean and the South China Sea in the late 1970s. Towers continued west coast operations and Far East deployments through the 1980s. Decommissioned and struck from the Navy list in October 1990, Towers was then sunk during a target exercise in October 2002.
Asbestos Risk on the USS Towers (DD-959)
Towers used asbestos products throughout the vessel. Engines and pumps produced intense heat, and were heavily insulated with asbestos. Because the mineral was nearly impervious to flame, it was also employed as fireproofing in boilers and the ship’s galleys. Asbestos insulation around steam pipes and asbestos-containing cements and paints extended the risk to almost every compartment and corridor.
Asbestos-containing material triggers malignant mesothelioma by affecting the mesothelium when it is taken into the lungs. The risk is greatest when asbestos fibers break off and form a fine dust. The storm damage sustained by Towers likely increased the quantity of asbestos dust on board, as waterlogged asbestos insulation is known to become friable.Sources