Mesothelioma and Navy Submarines

Quick Summary

Throughout the mid-20th century, the U.S. Navy required asbestos to be used in its submarines and other ships. As these vessels became damaged or worn down, toxic asbestos fibers could become airborne and later inhaled by the sailors working on them. Navy personnel exposed to asbestos were put at risk of the deadly cancer mesothelioma. Thankfully, affected veterans may qualify for VA benefits and legal compensation.

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How Were Veterans at Risk of Mesothelioma on Submarines?

Between the 1920s and early 1980s, the United States Navy used a large amount of asbestos-containing products to make its vessels, including submarines.

Asbestos was used throughout submarines as a fireproofing agent. It could be found in products like insulation, gaskets, and valves. Anyone who inhaled or swallowed asbestos fibers was put at risk of mesothelioma, an incurable cancer, decades later.

Fortunately, veterans diagnosed with mesothelioma have medical and financial options. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), skilled doctors, and experienced attorneys are standing by to help veterans access treatment and compensation.

If you served aboard a U.S. Navy submarine and later developed mesothelioma, learn how you can take action with our free veterans packet.

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Get Answers on Asbestos use in the Navy

  • Dangers on Submarines
  • Asbestos Exposure
  • VA Benefits

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Navy Submarines With Asbestos

Nearly 400 submarines commissioned by the U.S. Navy were built with asbestos-containing products before the mineral was widely known to cause mesothelioma and other health issues.

U.S. Navy submarines with asbestos include:

  • USS Albacore
  • USS Atlanta
  • USS Argonaut
  • USS Balao
  • USS Baltimore
  • USS Baton Rouge
  • USS Birmingham
  • USS Boston
  • USS Bremerton
  • USS Cavalla
  • USS Cincinnati
  • USS Dallas
  • USS Glenard P. Lipscomb
  • USS Groton
  • USS Houston
  • USS Indianapolis
  • USS Jacksonville
  • USS L. Mendel Rivers
  • USS La Jolla
  • USS Los Angeles
  • USS Memphis
  • USS Michigan
  • USS New York City
  • USS Nautilus
  • USS Omaha
  • USS Parche
  • USS Pompon
  • USS Pollack
  • USS Richard B. Russell
  • USS Runner
  • USS San Francisco
  • USS Seawolf
  • USS Tench
  • USS Tunny
  • USS Will Rogers
  • USS William H. Bates
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Please note that this is only a partial list of U.S. Navy submarines that used asbestos. If you don’t see the submarine you served on above, search our U.S. Navy ships database.

U.S. Navy Submarine Jobs & Asbestos Dangers

Anyone who served aboard a U.S. Navy submarine when asbestos products were in use may have been exposed to asbestos. However, certain Naval roles carried the greatest risk of asbestos exposure.

Those most at risk of asbestos-related diseases include:

  • Electricians
  • Machinists
  • Pipefitters
  • Shipyard workers
  • Welders

Navy personnel with these occupations worked with asbestos products on a daily basis. These workers often removed damaged asbestos materials from vessels and replaced them with newer products.

Activities like these could send asbestos fibers flying into the air, where they could easily be inhaled.

Asbestos Products & U.S. Navy Submarines

USS Argonaut (SS-475) underway.

The U.S. Navy used more asbestos-based products than any other military branch in its submarines and other ships. The military and the general public were unaware of the mineral’s risks because manufacturers of asbestos products hid the facts for decades.

Asbestos materials were used because they were heat resistant and cut down the risk of fires on board a submarine.

The dangers of fire were great on submarines — far greater than the danger on surface vessels. Fires can damage the hull of the submarine, making it dangerous to dive below the water.

Asbestos products on U.S. Navy submarines included:

  • Gaskets
  • Flanges
  • Insulation
  • Packing materials
  • Tape
  • Valves
  • Wire cloth
  • Water pipes

Learn more about asbestos products used on U.S. Navy submarines. Call (877) 450-8973.

The use of asbestos on submarines was well documented. For example, the USS Triton used many asbestos-based products between 1956 and 1960.

Compressed asbestos served as insulation, wire asbestos cloth protected equipment from leaking heat, and quilts of asbestos felt insulated pipes. Asbestos spiral-wound gaskets also were used in automatic drain valves.

Unfortunately, submarines are cramped and poorly ventilated. As a result, asbestos fibers that were disturbed when products were damaged or replaced could linger in the ship’s environment for long spans of time.

Mesothelioma Veterans GuideGet a FREE Veterans Packet

Get Answers on Asbestos use in the Navy

  • Dangers on Submarines
  • Asbestos Exposure
  • VA Benefits

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History of Mesothelioma & Navy Submarines

Submarines have been used by the U.S. Navy for over 100 years. Hundreds of submarines were built with asbestos-based products during this time.

The U.S. Navy mandated that asbestos was to be used aboard newly built submarines starting in 1922. From there, the use of asbestos steadily increased through World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War.

There are many classifications of submarines that were built mostly during the 20th century.

These include the following:

  • Attack submarines (SSK)Attack submarines are responsible for seeking out and destroying the enemy’s submarines and other types of seagoing vessels.
  • Ballistic missile submarines (SSBN)Often referred to as “boomers”, these submarines provide the U.S. with the most powerful nuclear strike capacity.
  • Guided missile submarines (SSGN)These submarines are equipped with tactical missiles to support both general strike forces and special operations.
  • Nuclear powered submarines (SSN)Nuclear powered submarines were first introduced in 1954 with the USS Nautilus. Nuclear submarines were capable of going further down below the ocean’s surface for longer periods of time than their predecessors.
  • Radar picket submarines (SSR)Radar picket submarines were designed to pick up threats or enemies on radar at a longer distance than normal. One notable radar picket submarine that used asbestos was the USS Triton. This submarine was studied as a potential mobile White House in the event of nuclear fallout in the 1960s.

Were you exposed to asbestos on a U.S. Navy submarine?
Call (877) 450-8973 to see if you qualify for VA benefits and compensation.

Many submarines that fall under these and other classifications may have been built with asbestos-containing products.

It would not be until decades later — until the early 1980s — that the government stopped using this dangerous mineral and removed asbestos-based products from U.S. Navy submarines.

Download our FREE Navy Ships Guide to see where you might have been exposed on a U.S. Navy ship.

Mesothelioma Navy Submarine Settlements

Veterans who developed mesothelioma after serving on a submarine can seek financial aid with a settlement.

With a mesothelioma settlement, the makers of the asbestos-based products you worked with agree to compensate you for your illness.

No legal action will be taken against the U.S. Navy, government, or other military branches.

Settlements are important as treating mesothelioma can be very expensive. A settlement can keep you and your family financially secure during this difficult time and for years to come.

Mesothelioma Navy submarine settlements include:

Learn more about how a settlement can help by connecting with a mesothelioma lawyer right now. Working with a skilled lawyer can make the legal process easier for you and your family.

Other Mesothelioma Navy Submarine Benefits

In addition to settlement compensation, veterans may also qualify for financial help through VA benefits and asbestos trust funds. Learn more about each below.

  • VA BenefitsAs of 2021, the VA offers a wide range of health benefits for mesothelioma patients and their families. Mesothelioma VA benefits include monthly payments, free or low-cost treatment, and financial aid for next of kin.
  • Asbestos Trust FundsVeterans may be able to receive additional compensation by filing a trust fund claim. Asbestos trust funds were set up by makers of asbestos-based products that declared bankruptcy to avoid lawsuits.

Skilled attorneys can help you and your family pursue VA benefits and asbestos trust fund claims.

Next Steps for U.S. Navy Veterans With Mesothelioma

If you or a loved one served on a U.S. Navy submarine and later developed mesothelioma, it's important to explore all the medical and legal options available to you.

Compensation from legal settlements, asbestos trust funds, and VA benefits can be very helpful during your battle with mesothelioma.

For example, when your cancer is service-connected, much or all of your care may be paid for under your VA medical benefits. Surviving family members of veterans with mesothelioma can also access financial aid.

Get a free veterans packet to learn more about these benefits and how to access them.

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 8 Sources
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  4. Smithsonian National Museum of American History. (n.d.). USS Nautilus (SSN-571). Retrieved April 27, 2021, from
  5. Newdick, T. (2021, February 19). There were doomsday ships ready to ride out nuclear armageddon before there were doomsday planes. Retrieved April 27, 2021, from
  6. Hedley-Whyte, J., & Milamed, D. (2008, September). Asbestos and ship-building: Fatal consequences. Retrieved April 27, 2021, from
  7. Naval Vessel Register. (n.d.). SSGN: GUIDED MISSILE SUBMARINE (NUCLEAR-POWERED). Retrieved April 28, 2021, from
  8. Sutton, H. I. (2020, June 14). Why the catastrophic fire on a nuclear submarine is nothing to gloat about. Retrieved April 28, 2021, from
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