Mesothelioma and Navy Submarines

Quick Summary

Throughout the mid-20th century, the U.S. Navy used asbestos in its submarines and other ships. As these vessels became damaged or worn down, asbestos fibers could become airborne and be inhaled or ingested.

Navy personnel exposed to asbestos were at risk of developing the deadly cancer mesothelioma or other illnesses. 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 dating back to World War I. In fact, in 1922 it was mandated that all new submarines made in the shipbuilding industry use asbestos-containing insulation.

This dangerous substance could be found in products like insulation, gaskets, and valves. Anyone who inhaled or swallowed asbestos fibers was put at risk of developing mesothelioma 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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List of Navy Submarines With Asbestos

Nearly 400 submarines commissioned by the U.S. Navy were built with asbestos-containing products. This was 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.

U.S. Navy Submarine Jobs & Asbestos Dangers

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

Those at high risk of asbestos-related diseases include:

  • Boiler room workers
  • Engine room workers
  • Electricians
  • Machinists
  • Pipefitters
  • Shipbuilders
  • 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

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.

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  • Dangers on Submarines
  • Asbestos Exposure
  • VA Benefits

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History of Mesothelioma & Navy Submarines

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 relied on asbestos.

These include the following:

  • Attack submarines (SSK): these submarines were responsible for seeking and destroying the enemy’s submarines and other types of vessels.
  • Ballistic missile submarines (SSBN), or 'boomers': these submarines provide the U.S. with the most powerful nuclear strike capacity.
  • Guided missile submarines (SSGN): submarines equipped with tactical missiles to support both general strike forces and special operations.
  • Nuclear-powered submarines (SSN): first introduced in 1954 with the USS Nautilus. These submarines could go further down below the ocean’s surface for longer periods of time than their predecessors.
  • Radar picket submarines (SSR):  designed to pick up threats or enemies on radar at a longer distance than normal. The USS Triton 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 that the government stopped using this dangerous mineral and removed asbestos-based products from Navy vessels.

Mesothelioma Navy Submarine Settlements

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

A mesothelioma settlement requires the makers of the asbestos-based products you worked with agree to compensate you for your illness. After all, if these companies had been honest about the dangers, asbestos would never have been so widely used, and you wouldn’t have been exposed to this deadly product.

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.

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 Compensation Options for Asbestos on Submarines

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

VA Benefits

The VA offers a wide range of healthcare 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.

The disability payment for a married veteran with mesothelioma is $3,823.89 per month. Our team can help you start your claim today.

Asbestos Trust Funds

Veterans 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 for mesothelioma cases.

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

Mesothelioma Lawsuits

If you don’t qualify for a trust fund claim, a reputable law firm can help you file a mesothelioma lawsuit against the makers of the asbestos products you were exposed to.

A lawyer may use proof of your mesothelioma diagnosis, medical records, and U.S. military service records to help you build a strong case and seek compensation.

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, lung cancer, asbestosis, or another asbestos disease, you have medical and legal options available.

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.

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