Due to World War II, the U.S Navy had to construct and deploy many new ships. In both the European and Pacific area, vessels like aircraft carriers and battleships were utilized for the war.
Many veterans were not only wounded from the war but were wounded due to the asbestos that were found within their ship. The list is very long regarding the officers and sailors that were at risk for mesothelioma or other lung cancers.
Some high-risk Navy Jobs include:
Boatswain Mate spend most of their time preforming maintenance duties above and below deck as well as controlling the activities on the ship. Some specific jobs they performed were grinding floor tiles containing asbestos and sanding paint that also contained asbestos.
Former boatswain mates Marc Chamot and Glenn Hatch, speak about the risks and dangers of their duties. Chamot expressed, “This ship was laden with dangerous levels of asbestos, mercury metals and leaded pains.” He was aboard the USS Vogelgesang, a Navy destroyer. Hatch was involved with asbestos during the Korean War. He slept in rooms with asbestos surrounding him, which lead to his current asbestos-related illness.
A boiler technician’s job is to repair or operate on steam boilers that drive Navy ships across the sea. A training manual enforced in 1951 required technicians to use asbestos sheets for gasket maintenance in air valve seats and cylinder head joints. Asbestos contaminated gloves were also used as during these repairs and operations.
Former boiler technician, John Anthony Starets worked from 1959 to 1963 in the fire room of USS Uhlmann. He describes how much of the ship was filled with asbestos. His fellow shipmen used to mix loose asbestos with water to create a paste for coating. Starets said, “The air was full of dust, and the asbestos was just like flour.”
Another boiler technician, William Mansir’s job was to disconnect and replace gaskets in packing materials that contained asbestos. In 2011 he was diagnosed with Mesothelioma and filed a lawsuit against John Crane, Inc. as well as 11 other asbestos manufacturers. Mansir won the lawsuit and was granted approximately $2.4 million.
The duty of a damage controlman is to preform emergency repairs on the ship after enemy attack as well as act as a fireman. They also must maintain activities such as pipe fittings, watertight closures, and maintain the equipment used for firefighting and damage controls.
The firefighting suits, gloves, and slippers that the men wore were made from sheet asbestos packing.
Damage controlman, Michael Kastanis, developed an asbestos- related gastrointestinal cancer from the exposure during his time working, which ultimately lead to his death. While working with warships that were located at Boston Naval Shipyard and Pearl Harbor, he also obtained some asbestos exposure.
An electrician’s responsibility is to operate on and repair the ship’s electrical systems which contain the power equipment, wiring, motors, generators, and lights.
There was a great deal of asbestos exposure since these men worked on almost every part of the ship. Asbestos materials were utilized when insulating generators, motors, and light transformers. The ship needed maintenance on all of their electrical systems throughout the ship and needed electricians to remove and dispose of insulations products that contained asbestos.
An electrician and machinist mate, Dennis Woodard, served in the Navy from 1961 to 1965. In 2007 he was diagnosed with mesothelioma and filed a lawsuit. He was granted $14.4 million and his wife $2.5 million by a California court due to several manufactures failing to warn him about the products that contained asbestos
Fire Control Technician
The duty of a fire control technician is to work with weapon systems in Navy submarines. These technicians were at a very high risk of exposure, especially in older submarines.
Asbestos contaminated hoodies and gloves were worn by these technicians while they loaded and fired gun turrets. It was also used in gaskets to seal out fired and other fumes.
The prime responsibility of a gunner’s mate is to maintain a ship armament, including things such as guided missiles, anti-aircraft artillery, and machine guns. Another duty is to work on depth charge mechanisms, smoke screen generators, and ammunition hoists.
These men worked to reduce the risk of burns while loading and firing ammunition with gloves that contained asbestos. As they aged, these gloves would give off toxic fibers. Insultation embedded in the ship would release asbestos dust when the ship fired hefty artillery.
Gunner mate, Joseph Henson Norris developed mesothelioma in 2005 from when he worked on the USS Bremerton from 1955-1957. A lawsuit was filed against a manufacturer, Crane Co. This company develops metal valves that contained packing and gaskets that has asbestos. The company’s carelessness and values are factors that help the jury conclude that they were the cause of Norris’s mesothelioma. He was granted $3.9 million from this lawsuit.
Hull Maintenance Technician
Hull maintenance technicians assemble and install many metal structures on Navy ships as well as firefighting. There was asbestos found in ventilation, pipe gaskets, and insulation, which the technicians breathed in as they worked.
A Navy veteran wrote an anonymous article about his experience with asbestos from when he was a hull maintenance from 1978 to 1981. The veteran describes that him as well as his shipmates had no knowledge of the risks from the asbestos and failed to wear any protective clothing when handling the material. He said, “Through my whole 18 months on board I got a large dose of asbestos from working on boilers to repairing of piping systems and [wearing] old firefighting apparel.”
A machinery repairman repairs a large range of different machinery on the ships. Removing and replacing gaskets filled with asbestos was one of their main jobs. Also, while operating on machinery and furnaces, these repairmen were exposed to insulation and sheets containing asbestos.
Virgin Junge, a former technician and repairman, has dealt with gaskets, flanges, and packing that were filled with asbestos when working with the Navy and Philadelphia Shipyard. Asbestos fibers were released into the air when the repairmen sanded down the products. Junge was diagnosed with asbestosis in 1993. A lawsuit was filed by him against Garlock and numerous companies that produced materials containing asbestos.
The main duties of machinists are to repair engine machinery and components, which included fuel pumps, elevators, air-conditioning systems, and turbines. They would examine and replace materials that contained asbestos for hours which caused many health risks.
In the 1966 movie, The Sand Pebbles, Steve McQueen played the role of a machinist’s mate. McQueen was later diagnosed with pleural mesothelioma, which ultimately lead to his death in 1980, making him one of the most famous actor to die from this illness.
After developing an asbestos related disease, past mechanics David Kelemen and David Taylor filed lawsuits for compensation. Taylor was awarded $3 million after suing John Crane, Inc. Numerous companies paid Kelemen $35.5 million to cover lost wages and medical expenditures.
Metalsmiths weld together sheet metal for repairing damages throughout the ships. These men were required to wear gloves due to the high temperatures, however, these gloves contained asbestos.
It was recommended by the Navy that to metalsmiths utilize a shield of a board containing asbestos to protect their hands as they welded.
A metalsmith that worked aboard the World War II- era cruiser USS Bremerton, named Charles Sparkes developed mesothelioma from his duties on the ship. He was required to work with gaskets and insulation around pipes that had asbestos enclosed within. In 1995, a claimed was filed by Sparkes and his wife against the manufacturer Owens-illinios Inc. The company was blamed for Sparkes’s illness; therefore he won the lawsuit.
The main duty of a pipefitter is to work with the pipe systems found throughout the ship. While repairing the pipes they are exposed to asbestos in the lagging from the pipe that were contaminated. Gaskets, seals, and insulation filled with asbestos are a few other things that pipefitters worked with that contributed to future health issues.
A welder and pipefitter, William Smith, who served in the USS Valley Forge ship from 1955 until 1974 describes how part of his job required mixing water with asbestos and other mixtures. He then had to coat the pipes on the ship with paste that had asbestos and then wrap them with clothes that also had asbestos embedded within. In 1999 he was then diagnosed with lung cancer.
Ulysses Collins, another pipefitter and welder, was diagnosed with mesothelioma from working on multiple shipyards. Some of these shipyards included Mare Island and Hunters Point Naval Shipyards. In 2005 he passed away from this disease, but his family members filed a lawsuit on his behalf. The lawsuit targeted 17 companies that produced products that he worked with that contained asbestos and were awarded $10 million.
Radiomen work with upholding the communication equipment on the ship. Their main duties were too transmit and decode radio messages that came through, as well as make repairs to radio equipment.
Asbestos was used as a filler for plastic molding compounds that were used for the base radio tubes on the ship. In 1972, the Navy training manual advocated for radiomen to install a heat shield in order to protect parts of the equipment; however, the heat shield contained asbestos.
A famous warning in 1941 was conducted by Ed Chlapowski saying, “This is no drill. Pearl Harbor is being attacked by the forces of the Imperial government of Japan. This is no drill.” After retiring from the Navy, Chlapowski worked at the Todd Shipyard, then passed away in 2011 from mesothelioma.
This a group of members from the Navy Construction Battalion that conducted many construction assignments that required welding, plumbing, craftsman, and electrical skills. Some of these duties included paving roads, building bases, and clearing land.
These construction assignments exposed seabees to many products with asbestos. These men used gaskets for steam lines and cut lagging sheets for insulation. Both the gaskets and lagging sheets were contaminated with asbestos. Every deployment, the insulation filled with asbestos was replaced or repaired with more of the contained insulation. These men also dealt with pipes insulation, paint, and boilers that has asbestos embedded within them.
Metalwork, including multiple welding techniques were completed by Navy welders on sea as well as on land.
To prevent metals from expanding, the 1950 Navy welding manual advised welders to use wet asbestos on the metal. During cast- iron welding, they also were required to utilize paper laced with asbestos to slow the cooling.
A welder, Gerald Black worked from 1942 to 1945 at Todd Shipyards made a testimony in a worker’s compensation claim in 1977. He described that other workers threw asbestos-containing material “like snowballs” and he “had to wallow in it to do [his] welding.” He exclaimed that his worksite was so dusty that he lost his work glove and couldn’t see well enough to find it.
Black was diagnosed with an asbestos- related lung disease and passed away in 1981. However, he won multiple lawsuits from various places including Todd Shipyards and was awarded a benefit of an unknown amount.