Through the 1970s, the U.S. Navy relied on cruisers that were constructed with more than 300 asbestos materials and components. Throughout history, cruisers have been important naval vessels during war, and are still part of the U.S. Navy. Asbestos on Navy cruisers exposed thousands who would later develop illnesses as veterans, including mesothelioma and asbestosis.
Asbestos on Navy Ships
Between the 1930s and the end of the 1970s, most U.S. Navy ships, including cruisers, were constructed with asbestos materials. Although toxic, asbestos was a top choice for insulation because it was inexpensive, lightweight, strong, and fireproof.
Cruisers and other ships contained asbestos in hundreds of materials. Areas with the most asbestos were those that generated heat: engine rooms, turbines, pipes. But, it could be found almost everywhere on a ship.
Studies and statistics confirm that U.S. Navy veterans have higher rates of mesothelioma and other asbestos illnesses than the general population. This is largely due to asbestos on ships.
When Was Asbestos Banned on Ships?
The U.S. Navy stopped using asbestos in the early 1980s. This was not the end of asbestos exposure. Asbestos remained on older ships for decades.
While the Navy took some steps to protect service men and women, it did not remove all asbestos from older cruisers and other ships. The act of removing asbestos, if not done very carefully, can cause more exposure.
Can You Sue the Navy for Asbestos Exposure or Mesothelioma?
No, veterans cannot sue the Navy for asbestos exposure. They can file for benefits through the VA, including disability payments and healthcare. They can also file lawsuits against asbestos companies that supplied the military.
About Navy Cruisers
The term cruiser has been used to describe various warships throughout history and has often referred to faster and smaller warships. Over time, the meaning would solidify yet diversify as different cruisers evolved.
The U.S. Navy has used cruisers since the 1880s. In the 20th century, cruisers became known as armored warships. These armored warships could travel fast and were slightly less powerful than battleships.
In the U.S. Navy, cruisers played important roles in both World Wars, Korean War, Vietnam War, and the Cold War. Cruisers became prominent after battleships waned in popularity after World War II. At that time, cruisers took over as the vessels most involved in direct combat.
Types of Cruisers
Naval cruisers have more variety than many other ship types. The U.S. Navy uses several cruiser designations. Different designations distinguish the ships by type and purpose. The types of cruisers built for the Navy include:
- Heavy cruiser (CA)
- Large cruiser (CB)
- Armored cruiser (AR
- Guided missile cruiser (CG)
- Guided missile heavy cruiser (CAG)
- Guided missile cruiser with a helicopter (CGH)
- Guided missile cruiser, nuclear powered (CGN)
- Guided missile cruiser light (CLG)
- Guided missile cruiser light, nuclear powered (CLGN)
- Large command ship (CBC)
- Command cruiser (CC)
- Command light cruiser (CLC)
- Light cruiser (CL)
- Anti-aircraft light cruiser (CLAA)
- Scout cruiser (CS)
- Strike missile cruiser (CSG)
- Strike missile cruiser, nuclear powered (CSGN)
- Aviation cruiser (CLV)
U.S. Navy Cruiser War Time History
Modern cruisers did not evolve or engage in wartime activities until World War I. U.S. Navy cruisers were first deployed in 1914. During the Great War, thirty cruisers were activated for patrol missions. Cruisers also escorted larger fleets and placed underwater mines.
After World War I, the Washington Naval Treaty limited the size of cruisers. In accordance with the treaty, Navy cruisers could not weigh more than 10,000 tons. They also could not have guns greater than eight-inch calibers.
When World War II began, treaty limitations were suspended, and the U.S. once again began deploying cruisers. These new cruisers served various roles, including escorting convoys, protecting aircraft carriers, gunfire support, and defensive screening. World War II saw a major change in warfare, with more aircraft and faster cruisers to outrun guns.
After the war, the navy modernized cruisers with new weaponry more appropriate for defending against aircraft. Updated cruisers provided gunfire support during the Korean War.
During years of Cold War tension between the U.S. and the Soviet Union, cruisers played a vital role. One example of the importance of Cold War cruisers was their use to blockade during the Cuban Missile Crisis.
The only cruisers still active in the U.S. Navy belong to the Ticonderoga class of guided missile cruisers. This cruiser class was ordered in 1978. Today there are twenty-two cruisers active. These ships are beginning to age, and there is no plan for replacement.
Ticonderoga cruisers are multi-role ships, meaning they can engage in a variety of operations. These ships are armed with Tomahawk cruise and anti-aircraft missiles.
How Was Asbestos Used in Navy Cruisers?
Most cruisers used asbestos to insulate, prevent overheating, as fireproofing, and protect personnel from heat. Some examples of where asbestos could be found on a cruiser include:
- Firefighting gear
- Gunner gear
- Deck matting
Asbestos was found throughout cruisers. While engine rooms, gunners, boiler rooms, and other areas requiring heat protection had the most asbestos, it was also in the galley, mess halls, and sleeping quarters.
How Were Cruiser Veterans Exposed to Asbestos?
The heavy asbestos use left men who were serving vulnerable to exposure. Asbestos exposure occurs when the microscopic fibers flake off and become airborne. Once these tiny fibers float in the air, they can be easily inhaled by personnel in the area.
Fibers may detach when the asbestos material is damaged; however, it can also happen through regular wear and tear. Exposure is likely for men who served on cruisers with asbestos.
Who Was at Greatest Risk of Asbestos Exposure on Cruisers?
Anyone serving on board a cruiser could have been exposed to asbestos. Maintenance and repair workers were most at risk, both those on the ships and those in shipyards where they worked on cruiser repairs.
These workers handled asbestos materials, cutting and tearing them in the course of their work. Navy veterans have high rates of mesothelioma death because of exposure on ships like cruisers.
Other roles on Navy cruisers with a higher risk of asbestos exposure include:
- Workers in boiler and engine rooms
According to a study of over 100,000 veterans, the people on ships with the highest rates of mesothelioma were machinist’s mates, pipefitters, boiler technicians, fire control technicians, and water tenders. The latter worked in boiler rooms and tended the fires and the water in the boilers.
U.S. Cruisers with Asbestos
It is likely all cruisers built before the late 1970s contained asbestos; however, documentation exists for some, proving they contained asbestos.
Later cruisers may have contained asbestos, although not in the quantities present on later models. Men should be aware of potential exposure if they served on a Navy cruiser. Asbestos exposure can lead to the development of asbestos-related illnesses.
Some cruisers known to contain asbestos include:
- USS Belknap, commissioned 1964, sunk
- USS California, commissioned 1974, recycled
- USS Galveston, commissioned 1958, scrapped
- USS Halsey, commissioned 1963, scrapped
- USS Josephus Daniels, commissioned 1965, scrapped
- USS Jouett, commissioned 1966, sunk
- USS Mississippi, commissioned 1978, recycled
- USS Little Rock, commissioned 1944, museum ship
- USS Oklahoma City, commissioned 1944, sunk
- USS Astoria, commissioned 1943, scrapped
- USS Biloxi, commissioned 1943, scrapped
- USS Duluth, commissioned 1944, scrapped
- USS Manchester, commissioned 1946, scrapped
- USS Miami, commissioned 1942, scrapped
- USS Providence, commissioned 1944, scrapped
- USS Vicksburg, commissioned 3 scrapped
- USS Wilkes-Barre, commissioned 1944, sunk
- USS Denver, commissioned 1942, scrapped
- USS Canberra, commissioned 1943, scrapped
- USS Dayton, commissioned 1945, scrapped
- USS England, commissioned 1963, scrapped
- USS Chicago, commissioned 1945, scrapped
- USS Duluth, commissioned 1944, sunk
- USS Guam, commissioned 1944, scrapped
- USS Pasadena, commissioned 1944, scrapped
- USS Pittsburgh, commissioned 1944, scrapped
- USS St. Paul, commissioned 1945, scrapped
- USS Tallahassee, commissioned 1943, sunk
- USS Topeka, commissioned 1944, scrapped
- USS San Diego, commissioned 1942, scrapped
- USS Oregon City, commissioned 1946, scrapped
- USS Quincy, commissioned 1943, scrapped
- USS Baltimore, commissioned 1943, scrapped
- USS Helena, commissioned 1945, scrapped
- USS Los Angeles, commissioned 1945, scrapped
- USS Worcester, commissioned 1948, scrapped
This is not a comprehensive list. All veterans should be aware that many Naval ships contained asbestos. Nearly every Navy vessel made between the 1930s and 1970s contained asbestos in some form. If you served on a cruiser or other ship from that time period, you should be screened for asbestos-related illnesses.
Compensation for Navy Veterans
If you or someone you love was diagnosed with mesothelioma, you can do something about it. Make a claim with the Veterans Administration to receive compensation for suffering and medical expenses. You can also receive specialist medical care at a VA hospital.
Other sources of compensation for veterans are lawsuits and asbestos trust funds. Contact a mesothelioma lawyer to find out which companies affected you. They can help you start a lawsuit to seek a settlement. If the companies went bankrupt, they can help you make a claim with a trust fund.Get Your FREE Mesothelioma Packet
Page Written by Mary Ellen Ellis
Mary Ellen Ellis has been the head writer for Mesothelioma.net since 2016. With hundreds of mesothelioma and asbestos articles to her credit, she is one of the most experienced writers on these topics. Her degrees and background in science and education help her explain complicated medical topics for a wider audience. Mary Ellen takes pride in providing her readers with the critical information they need following a diagnosis of an asbestos-related illness.
Page Edited by Patient Advocate Dave Foster
Dave has been a mesothelioma Patient Advocate for over 10 years. He consistently attends all major national and international mesothelioma meetings. In doing so, he is able to stay on top of the latest treatments, clinical trials, and research results. He also personally meets with mesothelioma patients and their families and connects them with the best medical specialists and legal representatives available.