Asbestos on Battleships

Tons of Asbestos Products Used

Literally tons of asbestos insulating products were used on US Navy Battleships.  According to the Navy’s insulation schedules, each Iowa Class Battleship contained almost 465 tons of thermal insulation.  By weight, over 85% of this thermal insulation contained asbestos.  Shipyard workers who built and overhauled these battleships and Navy seamen who served on them were exposed to the asbestos dust generated from this massive amount of asbestos insulation.

Asbestos was used to insulate the machinery and piping throughout every battleship.  Each time this asbestos insulation was installed and removed, millions of hazardous asbestos fibers were released into the air.  Physical contact also caused the release of asbestos.  Asbestos would also become airborne from ship vibration, with temperature changes during normal operations and when firing the ship’s main guns.

In an environment with hundreds of tons of insulating materials, asbestos dust was constantly released through the on-going maintenance and running of the ship.  Anyone in the vicinity was constantly exposed to toxic asbestos fibers, with all the associated health hazards.

Asbestos Exposure on Battleships

Although battleships are no longer in use today, thousands of shipyard workers and Navy seamen who worked on Navy battleships in the past were exposed to asbestos dust and the dangerous health risk associated with that exposure including the risk of contracting mesothelioma.  Many of our clients have served on Navy battleships.  Their exposure to asbestos on these ships was the cause of their mesothelioma.

Battleships that contained asbestos insulating products include:

Nevada Class

•    USS Oklahoma BB-37

New York Class

•    USS New York BB-34

Pennsylvania Class

•    USS Pennsylvania BB-38
•    USS Arizona BB-39

North Carolina Class

•    USS North Carolina BB-55
•    USS Washington BB-56

South Dakota Class

•    USS South Dakota BB-57
•    USS Indiana BB-58
•    USS Massachusetts BB-59
•    USS Alabama BB-60

Iowa Class

•    USS Iowa BB-61
•    USS New Jersey BB-62
•    USS Missouri BB-63
•    USS Wisconsin BB-64
•    USS Illinois BB-65*
•    USS Kentucky BB-66*
*Originally laid as Montana class battleship; reordered as Iowa class, but not completed.

Strategic Weapons of US Navy

In the past, battleships represented supreme naval sea power.  They were important strategic weapons for the US Navy and were unique among warships due to their strong and balanced offensive and defensive capabilities.  A battleship was designed to be protected against enemy fire by the strength of her own guns combined with thick steel armor plating.

A single battleship had limited strategic value unless it was integrated with supporting warships.  This meant that battleships trained and operated as part of a battleship group.  The US Navy had to build a fleet of different types of ships to sail with these groups.  During the World War II years, 12 battleships were added to the existing fleet.  Battleships continued their service in the Korean and Vietnam Wars.  President Reagan’s plan for a 600 ship navy included authorization to remobilize, modernize and recommission the four Iowa class battleships in the 1980s.  They saw action in the Gulf Wars before being decommissioned again in the 1990s.