The USS Los Angeles (SSN-688) was the lead ship of the Los Angeles class, the U.S. Navy’s largest class of nuclear-powered, high-speed attack submarines. She was dubbed the Navy’s “first and finest” and served for more than 35 years, from her launch in 1974 until her recent decommissioning in 2010. In 2007, the Los Angeles held the title of the oldest submarine in active service in the Navy.
Newport News Shipbuilding and Dry Dock Company in Newport News, Virginia was awarded the contract to build the Los Angeles; her keel was laid down in January 1972. She was launched on April 6, 1974, sponsored by U.S. diplomat and politician Anne L. Armstrong, and she was commissioned on November 13, 1976 with Commander John E. Christensen leading. She was the fourth naval ship to be named for Los Angeles, California.
After her launch in April 1974, the Los Angeles conducted numerous sea trials of the ship’s propulsion, sonar and weapons systems. These tests, under the direction of Admiral Hyman G. Rickover, lasted for more than two years. She was commissioned upon their completion, in November 1976.
Shortly after her commissioning ceremony, the USS Los Angeles hosted two important guests: President Jimmy Carter and first lady Rosalynn Carter, who attended at at-sea demonstration of the United States’ newest attack submarine on May 27, 1977. As the lead ship of its class, the submarine was hailed for its advanced technology, particularly its unmatched endurance, speed and stealth.
The Los Angeles’ first deployment was to the Mediterranean Sea in 1977, but the following year she was transferred to the Pacific Fleet and given a new home port of Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. She conducted 17 deployments in the Pacific Ocean over the next 32 years and visited foreign ports including locations in Italy, the Philippines, Australia, Japan and Singapore. In the process, the Los Angeles received eight Meritorious Unit Citations and a Navy Unit Citation.
In July 1992, the Los Angeles’ home port was transferred to the Mare Island Naval Shipyard in Vallejo, California. There she was given an overhaul, receiving a state-of-the-art sonar system, a new reactor core and a rubber hull treatment that once again made her among the quietest submarines in the Navy’s fleet. She was later reassigned to her former home port of Pearl Harbor.
The Los Angeles was decommissioned on January 23, 2010 in the Port of Los Angeles, her namesake city.
Asbestos Risk on the USS Los Angeles (SSN-688)
The Los Angeles was heralded for her speed, stealth and technological advances, and many Navy veterans remember their days aboard the vessel very fondly. But sadly, for many people, there has been another lasting impact of service aboard the Los Angeles and other naval submarines: asbestos-related diseases. For years, the U.S. Navy used asbestos throughout its vessels as an insulator and to help prevent fire. Products made of the naturally occurring mineral could be found covering pipes, insulating boilers, and in pumps, gaskets and even fireproof blankets.
Asbestos wasn’t just used by the Navy. While its use dates back thousands of years, asbestos became widely used in manufacturing around the time of the Industrial Revolution in the late 19th century. By the early 1970s, when the USS Los Angeles was being constructed, the U.S. was using 1.4 billion pounds of asbestos each year in products such as building supplies, industrial parts, even lawn chairs and cigarette filters.
Today we know that asbestos is a serious health hazard and can cause debilitating lung diseases like asbestosis and mesothelioma cancer. But for decades, unsuspecting sailors, deckhands and shipyard workers were completely unaware that their work could be putting their lives in jeopardy. Simple acts like replacing insulation on a submarine’s pipework, repairing a boiler, or just working in the vicinity of asbestos-containing materials could have exposed them to tiny asbestos fibers that, years later, could lead to a life-altering diagnosis.
If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with mesothelioma cancer or another asbestos-related disease, take the time to learn about your health options and legal rights. Request a mesothelioma information packet today.Sources
Wikipedia – USS Los Angeles (SSN-688)
Submarine History – USS Los Angeles (SSN-688)
“Asbestos and Ship-Building: Fatal Consequences”