Edson was launched 4 January 1958 by Bath Iron Works Corp., Bath, Maine; sponsored by Mrs. M. A. Edson; and commissioned 7 November 1958, Commander Thomas J. Moriarty in command.
Edson called at Ciudad Trujillo and Caribbean ports while conducting shakedown training en route to Callao, Peru, where she lay from 18 to 21 February 1959 delivering supplies for the U.S. Embassy in Lima. She reached Long Beach, California, her home port, 2 March, and through the remainder of the year perfected her readiness with exercises along the west coast. On 5 January 1960 she sailed from Long Beach for her first deployment in the Far East, during which she patrolled in the Taiwan Straits and took part in amphibious operations off Okinawa, and exercises of various types off Japan. On 29 April, she rescued three aviators from Ranger (CVA-61). Edson returned to Long Beach 31 May for an overhaul which continued through October. Edson spent the remainder of 1960 conducting training off San Diego.
Edson served as plane guard for carriers on Yankee Station in the Tonkin Gulf, participated in Sea Dragon operations, patrolled on search and rescue duties and carried out Naval Gunfire Support missions during the conflict in Vietnam.
The Edson served as a museum ship at the Intrepid Sea-Air-Space Museum in New York City from 30 June 1989 to 2004 when it was replaced by a Concorde airliner. The Wisconsin Naval Ship Association is currently searching for a berth for the Edson to reinstate it as a museum ship in that state.