Asbestos on Destroyer Escorts

Quick Summary

Asbestos was used in numerous areas of destroyer escorts. Because of this, sailors and other military servicemen were likely to inhale asbestos dust, even if they did not directly work with the substance.

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Asbestos and Destroyer Escorts Explained

Destroyer escorts (also called frigates) are a type of ship used mainly by the U.S. Navy in amphibious operations. They are small, lightly armed Naval vessels, designed to accompany supply and merchant marine ships.
They help in the destruction of submarines, man picket stations, and screen for capital ship bombardments.

Unfortunately, almost every Navy destroyer escort built before the 1980s contained asbestos-based products. Veterans who were exposed to asbestos aboard Naval ships could be at risk of deadly cancers like mesothelioma later in life.

According to Naval records, letters, repair logs, historical documents, databases on ships, memos and war diaries, asbestos was used in the building of Naval ships. In fact, there were many materials made from asbestos on board.

It was also carcinogenic — meaning it was known to cause cancer — and the manufacturers knew it. They didn’t tell the Navy or the public, however, and the risks of asbestos were largely unknown until the 1970s.

Thankfully, veterans with mesothelioma or other asbestos-related illnesses can pursue benefits from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). They can also take legal action to seek payment from the makers of asbestos-based products. Get a free veterans packet to learn more.

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How Asbestos Products Were Used on Destroyer Escorts

All areas of shipbuilding, maintenance, and repair involved asbestos.

A destroyer escort on the water

Asbestos was found in these types of equipment used on destroyer escorts:


Boilers were an important part of Navy destroyer escorts. They are used to create high-pressure steam and high temperatures on ships. Boilers have several different functions on Navy destroyers — they run important machinery on the ships and help power the ship on the ocean.

Before 1973, boiler manufacturers told the Navy that they had to use boilers coated with external insulation. This external insulation contained approximately 15% asbestos.

There were also asbestos gaskets on these boilers, and many contained loose asbestos packing. This meant boilermakers and other members of the service who dealt with boilers on destroyer escorts were often exposed to the substance.

Boiler rooms were usually extremely small spaces with poor ventilation. During regular maintenance of boilers, asbestos fibers could be released into the air and ingested or inhaled by the workers.

Pipe Insulation

There were many pipes on destroyer escort ships that carried cold water and steam throughout the ship. These pipes were coated with asbestos-containing wraps that insulated the pipes and kept the steam system fully operational.

Pipes were insulated by felt wrappings that were then coated over with an outer wrapping made from tar. These felt wrappings contained up to 50% asbestos.

Pipes were everywhere on the ship. They could be found in the mess halls and private sleeping quarters, which meant asbestos was often being released into the air. Any time the pipes needed repair work, the asbestos wrapping was removed, exposing sailors and other workers to asbestos.

When the pipe coatings were damaged, the sailors had to remove the old insulation wrappings and replace them with new insulation wrappings. This process involved mixing water with dry asbestos, causing even more asbestos to be released into the air.

Get a free veterans packet if you worked around any asbestos-based products on a destroyer escort and later got sick. Compensation may be available.


Asbestos materials were commonly used as part of mechanical pumps, which powered many different systems on the destroyer escorts.

This included bilge systems, cooling systems, and heating systems. It was the machinist’s mates who maintained these pumps and were exposed to asbestos during pump repairs.

Service members inhaled asbestos via the insulation that coated the pumps, particularly during repair activities.

Many workers were unaware that asbestos was dangerous. They didn’t wear protective respiratory gear or wet the insulation during the removal process, which would have cut down on asbestos exposure.

These workers used wire brushes and scrapers to remove difficult gaskets and, during this time, they were often exposed to asbestos in the air.


Valves on destroyer escorts helped to control the flow of gasses and liquids throughout its pipes. And many of these valves contained asbestos in the gaskets and insulation coating.

Asbestos helped the valves withstand the high pressures and chemical gasses used in pipes on the ship.

Exposure to asbestos was common among boiler operators, pipe fitters, and other members of the Navy who worked on valve replacement and installation.

During the installation process, sailors had to disassemble the old packing material and gaskets, exposing them to asbestos fibers in the air.

The disassembling process involved removing old gaskets, replacing them with new ones, and packing them with asbestos-containing insulation.

Other Products Containing Asbestos on Destroyer Escorts

Besides the machinery listed above, there were many other products used on destroyer escorts.

Asbestos-containing products on U.S. Navy destroyers include:

  • Grinders
  • Insulating materials
  • Gaskets
  • Turbines
  • Hydraulic assemblies
  • Deck covering materials
  • Adhesives
  • Tubes
  • Packing materials
  • Paneling
  • Capacitors
  • Block insulation
  • Bedding compounds
  • Thermal materials
  • Aggregate mixtures

Asbestos on Destroyer Escorts & Mesothelioma

Sadly, symptoms of harm from asbestos exposure can take up to 50 years to appear. That’s why many veterans of destroyer escorts and other amphibious warships are just now experiencing symptoms of mesothelioma.

Asbestos fibers can become lodged in the lungs, cause them damage, and eventually lead to the formation of mesothelioma or other asbestos-related diseases.

List of Destroyer Escorts With Asbestos

There were more than 450 destroyer escorts made by the United States Navy. These ships were vital in the support of U.S. merchant marines, particularly during World War II. Due to policies on what these ships were to be made with, asbestos on destroyer escorts was all too common.

U.S. Navy destroyers that contained asbestos include:

  • USS Alger (DE 101)
  • USS Amesbury (DE 66)
  • USS Austin (DE 15)
  • USS Barber (DE 161)
  • USS Baron (DE 166)
  • USS Bowen (DE 1079)
  • USS Chambers (DE 391)
  • USS Cockrill (DE 398)
  • USS Crouter (DE 11)
  • USS Daniel (DE 335)
  • USS DeLong (DE 684)
  • USS Dionne (DE 261)
  • USS Donnell (DE 56)
  • USS Edsall (DE 129)
  • USS Eisele (DE 34)
  • USS Evarts (DE 5)
  • USS Finch (DE 328)
  • USS French (DE 367)
  • USS Garcia (DE 1040)
  • USS Jobb (DE 707)
  • USS Lockwood (DE 1064)
  • USS Marsh (DE 699)
  • USS McAnn (DE 73)
  • USS Moore (DE 240)
  • USS Oswald (DE 71)
  • USS Slater (DE 766) (now located in Albany, New York)

Risk of Asbestos Exposure on Destroyer Escorts

U.S. Navy veterans who worked in high-risk areas, such as engine rooms and boiler rooms, were most likely to inhale asbestos.

Many times, this led to an asbestos-related disease, such as asbestosis, malignant mesothelioma, and lung cancer.

Other destroyer escort workers at risk of asbestos exposure:

  • Ship builders
  • Machinists
  • Electricians
  • Plumbers
  • Mechanics
  • Shipyard workers
  • Pipefitters
  • Insulators
  • Kitchen staff
  • Medical officers
  • Other naval vessel officers

History of U.S. Navy Destroyer Escorts

The U.S. Navy heavily relied on destroyer escorts for decades. These ships can target submarines, as they contain the most advanced equipment involved in anti-submarine warfare. They also have the capability to transport troops.

Destroyer escorts provide added protection against aircraft carriers and smaller attack vessels. The advent of the destroyer escorts began in 1944 when the first Navy destroyer escort was built and used during the latter part of World War II.

At that time, no one was aware that the war was almost over, and there was an increased need for escorts.

In order to meet the demand for these types of ships, the Navy commissioned the construction of more than 400 destroyer escorts. Destroyer escorts have since been made inactive, as the Navy no longer needs their services.

If you served on a U.S. Navy destroyer escort proven to contain asbestos and are now facing a mesothelioma diagnosis, you have options to seek compensation for damages.

Compensation for a service-related mesothelioma diagnosis can help cover your medical bills, the pain you’ve endured, and other impacts to your life.

Asbestos Trust Fund Claims

The companies that made asbestos products used on Naval vessels had to file bankruptcy due to all the asbestos claims filed against them.

Because of this, they set up trust funds to provide compensation for asbestos victims. With a free case evaluation from a mesothelioma lawyer, you may be able to file a mesothelioma claim and seek help from one of these trust funds.

Veterans Affairs Benefits

You may also be able to seek help from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. The VA has established healthcare benefits and disability benefits for veterans who develop mesothelioma after asbestos exposure during service.

Mesothelioma typically receives a 100% disability rating, which means you may receive full benefits.

Need help filing your claim? Reach out to a mesothelioma law firm for help and legal advice.

Help for Veterans With Mesothelioma

If you or a loved one were stationed on a destroyer escort, you likely were exposed to the use of asbestos. This means you are at risk for an asbestos-related illness.

You may need to be screened for mesothelioma or lung cancer. If an asbestos-related disease is found, you can find viable treatment options at any VA hospital.

There are specialty VA medical centers that almost exclusively treat veterans who were exposed to asbestos as part of their work in the Navy.

As the exposure was directly related to your time in the service, much or all of the care you receive will be paid for by the VA. Mesothelioma patients may also be entitled to receive benefits if they are unable to work due to asbestos exposure.

Get a free veterans packet to learn how you can access VA benefits and compensation now.

Veterans Support Team
Christopher Dryfoos PhotoWritten by:

Contributing Author

Christopher Dryfoos is a journalist and member of the American Medical Writers Association (AMWA). As the grandson of the U.S. Navy’s first forensic pathologist, he aims to help veterans with mesothelioma access needed care.

View 1 Sources
  1. Destroyer escort image retrieved from Naval History and Heritage Command at
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