Destroyers and Asbestos Exposure
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A destroyer is a fast and maneuverable warship designed to escort larger vessels of naval fleets and defend them from smaller enemy boats. U.S. Navy veterans who served on older destroyers were likely exposed to asbestos and could have mesothelioma or lung cancer.
Did U.S. Navy Destoyers Contain Asbestos?
Yes, unfortunately, many destroyers were constructed with asbestos throughout. All kinds of Navy ships built between the 1930s and 1970s contained asbestos in insulation, fireproofing, and many other components.
About Destroyers and Destroyer Classes
Because destroyers are fast and maneuverable, they escort larger, slower, more vulnerable ships. A destroyer can deter or defend against attacks from smaller, torpedoed vessels.
Destroyers are also endurance ships, often traveling vast distances to protect a fleet. The first destroyers were developed in the late 1800s, immediately after torpedo ships entered the naval scene.
The basic designation for a U.S. Navy destroyer is DD. Within this hull classification are several types of destroyers:
- DDG, Guided-Missile Destroyer
- DE, Destroyer Escort
- DL, Destroyer Leader (Frigate)
- DLG, Guided-Missile Destroyer Leader
- DLGN, Nuclear-Powered Guided-Missile Destroyer Leader
The First Destroyers
The history of naval destroyers extends back to Theodore Roosevelt and his tenure as assistant secretary of the Navy and during the Spanish-American War.
In 1898, the Navy determined the biggest threat to naval security was the small Spanish torpedo boat. These fast-moving boats could come in close to larger ships, fire torpedoes, and speed away before return fire could be given. To defend the fleet from these attacks, Congress approved funding to build sixteen destroyers.
The US Navy commissioned the first destroyer, the USS Bainbridge, in 1902. This vessel was designed to defend against torpedo boats and endure long escort voyages.
Destroyers in World War I
During World War I, destroyer design and construction significantly improved, allowing these vessels to attack submarines as well. During the war, destroyers engaged in over 250 battles with German submarines and also transported personnel across the Atlantic Ocean.
Destroyers From World War II to the Present
Destroyers were also important in World War II. The U.S. Navy commissioned many destroyers to defend against and attack the German fleet.
During the war, destroyers targeted submarines, cleared shore batteries, rescued fallen airmen, and took out enemy planes. During the Korean and Vietnam Wars, destroyers were instrumental in navigating shallower waters.
Destroyers have proven versatile tools for the U.S. Navy and are still in use today.
Asbestos Use in U.S. Navy Destroyers
The U.S. Navy used asbestos extensively in most of its ships, especially those built between the 1930s and 1970s. Hundreds of building materials were made with asbestos, many of which were used to build the Navy’s destroyers.
Asbestos was used extensively because of its insulation ability. Asbestos is also fireproof, inexpensive, and lightweight, making it seem ideal for shipbuilding.
Where Was Asbestos Found in Destroyers?
- In destroyers, insulation around pipes and in the boiler and engine rooms contained asbestos.
- Insulation throughout the ships, even in the galley and crew messes, often contained asbestos.
- Pumps, valves, gaskets, and fireproofing materials were all built with asbestos.
- Gunners had to wear asbestos gloves to protect their hands.
- Deck matting, flooring material, tiles, and other components on these ships also contained asbestos.
Who Was at Risk of Asbestos Exposure?
Personnel, including sailors and officers stationed on destroyers built before the late 1970s, were likely exposed to asbestos.
Those with the highest risk of exposure were sailors in the engine or boiler room and those who performed maintenance or repairs.
These men were exposed when asbestos was disturbed, causing fibers to become airborne and workers could easily inhale them. This commonly occurred during maintenance work.
Nearly one-third of mesothelioma diagnoses are in veterans, especially navy veterans. This increased rate is directly related to asbestos exposure.
These veterans were also at risk for developing lung cancer and a type of lung scarring called asbestosis. Shipyard workers who constructed or repaired the Navy’s destroyers were also at risk of developing these devastating illnesses.
List of U.S. Navy Ships That Had Asbestos – Destroyers
There have been hundreds of US destroyers, as these ships have played important roles, both in times of war and peace. Many, especially those built before World War II, contained high levels of asbestos.
This is a partial list of destroyers known to have asbestos:
- USS Aaron Ward, commissioned 1944, scrapped
- USS Abbot, commissioned 1919, transferred to Great Britain
- USS Abner Read, commissioned 1943, sunk
- USS Agerholm, commissioned 1946, sunk
- USS Albert W. Grant, commissioned 1943, scrapped
- USS Alden, commissioned 1919, scrapped
- USS Alfred A. Cunningham, commissioned 1944, sunk
- USS Allen M. Sumner, commissioned 1944, scrapped
- USS Arnold J. Isbell, commissioned 1946, transferred to Greece
- USS Ault, commissioned 1944, scrapped
- USS Bache, commissioned 1942, scrapped
- USS Basilone, commissioned 1949, sunk
- USS Bausell, commissioned 1946, sunk
- USS Bigelow, commissioned 1957, sunk
- USS Black, commissioned 1943, scrapped
- USS Blandy, commissioned 1957, scrapped
- USS Brownson, commissioned 1945, sold
- USS Burrows, commissioned 1911, scrapped
- USS Caron, commissioned 1977, sunk
- USS Carpenter, commissioned 1949, transferred to Turkey
- USS Charles R. Ware, commissioned 1945, sunk
- USS Comte de Grasse, commissioned 1978, sunk
- USS Conolly, commissioned 1978, sunk
- USS Corry, commissioned 1946, transferred to Greece
- USS Cotten, commissioned 1946, scrapped
- USS Du Pont, commissioned 1957, scrapped
- USS Eugene A. Greene, commissioned 1945, transferred to Spain
- USS Gainard, commissioned 1944, scrapped
- USS Gearing, commissioned 1944, scrapped
- USS Hawkins, commissioned 1945, transferred to Taiwan
- USS Hull, commissioned 1958, sunk
- USS Ingersoll, commissioned 1943, sunk
- USS James C. Owens, commissioned 1945, transferred to Brazil
- USS James E. Kyes, commissioned 1946, transferred to Taiwan
- USS Keppler, commissioned 1947, sold to Turkey
- USS Kinkaid, commissioned 1976, sunk
- USS McCaffery, commissioned 1945, scrapped
- USS McKean, commissioned 1945, sold to Turkey
- USS Noa, commissioned 1945, loaned to Spain
- USS O’Brien, commissioned 1944, sunk
- USS O’Brien, commissioned 1977, sunk
- USS Oldendorf, commissioned 1978, sunk
- USS Perry, commissioned 1946, scrapped
- USS Peterson, commissioned 1977, sunk
- USS Robert L. Wilson, commissioned 1946, sunk
- USS Shields, commissioned 1945, sold to Brazil
- USS Steinaker, commissioned 1945, sold to Mexico
- USS Theodore E. Chandler, commissioned 1946, scrapped
- USS Thorn, commissioned 1943, sunk
- USS Vesole, commissioned 1945, sunk
- USS Vogelgesang, commissioned 1945, sold to Mexico
- USS Walke, commissioned 1944, scrapped
- USS Willis A. Lee, commissioned 1954, scrapped
- USS Wren, commissioned 1944, scrapped
Do Navy Ships Still Have Asbestos?
The Navy stopped using asbestos on destroyers and other ships in the early 1980s. Many older ships with asbestos have been scrapped or modified to make them safer or to remove asbestos entirely.
In 1975, the Navy began replacing asbestos materials that had been damaged or needed to be exposed for repair work. By 1979, it began removing more asbestos insulation in areas with high maintenance needs to reduce exposure risks.
While the risks of exposure today are much lower, men and women serving in the Navy might still encounter old asbestos.
Veterans Exposed to Asbestos on Destroyers Can Get Compensation
The US Navy built hundreds of destroyers when it was common practice to use asbestos to build ships. This means thousands of people were put at risk of developing mesothelioma and related illnesses. Destroyer veterans who are sick now have several ways to seek compensation and benefits:
- VA Healthcare. Veterans should consider their health first and seek the best care. The VA Boston and Los Angeles hospitals have mesothelioma experts on staff. Veterans can get free healthcare at any VA facility.
- VA Compensation. If you can show that you were exposed to asbestos during service on a Navy ship, you can file for disability compensation. The VA disability rating for mesothelioma is 100%.
- Lawsuits. Veterans cannot sue the military or government. However, a mesothelioma lawyer can help you identify and file a lawsuit against the manufacturers that supplied the Navy with asbestos.
- Asbestos Trust Funds. Many asbestos companies went bankrupt but set up trust funds to compensate future claimants.
If you were diagnosed with mesothelioma after serving on a U.S. destroyer, talk to an asbestos attorney to find out what you can do about it. They can help you identify and prove the source of your asbestos exposure and lead your benefit and legal claims.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.