United States Navy Destroyers

United States Navy destroyers play a critical role in the military’s offensive and defensive tactics. While destroyers ensure the safety of America, their prolific use of asbestos before the 1980s has since endangered the lives of many veterans who have served the nation. Asbestos exposure can lead to deadly illnesses like mesothelioma.

Written and Fact-Checked by: Laura Wright

About U.S. Navy Destroyers

The United States Navy is recognized for its military might and prowess, in partial thanks to the fearsome destroyer class of ships.

Destroyers were built in response to the torpedo ships of the late 1800s, which could launch devastating torpedo attacks at ships and military bases.

The U.S. recognized an immediate need to counter these ships and created the “torpedo boat destroyer,” which has since evolved and is now referred to as simply “destroyer.”

In modern warfare, U.S. Navy destroyers are multi-purpose vessels with missile capabilities. Destroyers can be used independently or as part of a larger military fleet, making them a truly versatile ship.

Today, the military uses only one type of destroyer:

  • DDG: Destroyer with guided missile

These destroyers come in two models, the Arleigh Burke and the Zumwalt.

However, additional destroyer types and models were used in previous wartimes, up until 1975:

  • DE: Destroyer escort
  • DL: Destroyer leader, or “frigate”
  • DLG: Frigate with guided missile
  • DLGN: Frigate with guided-missile & nuclear-propulsion

Sadly, any destroyer built before the early 1980s could contain asbestos, a cancer-causing substance. Today, Navy veterans are at a very high risk of developing asbestos-caused cancers like mesothelioma from serving aboard these destroyers.

Asbestos Use in Destroyers

The U.S. Navy used asbestos in abundance, and its rampant application in destroyer ships was no exception. Asbestos was considered a miracle material, serving numerous purposes at once as it insulated, fireproofed and secured ships together.

Better yet, it was lightweight and inexpensive, making it the perfect construction material for the Navy’s seaworthy vessels.

Navy Asbestos Removal Programs

In the early 1980s, the military began to recognize and acknowledge the life-threatening hazards of asbestos and phased out its use. Unfortunately, for many, the damage was already done.

Ships, such as destroyers, that used asbestos were cleaned or decommissioned, and a new fleet of asbestos-free vessels took their place.

Yet thousands of Navy workers who manufactured destroyers, as well as sailors who worked aboard the asbestos-filled vessels, had already been put at risk of developing asbestos-related diseases.

Decades later, many of these veterans are now facing the consequences of that exposure.

“Workers heavily exposed in the past, particularly before the federal government began to regulate asbestos in the workplace in the late 1960s and early 1970s, may just now be facing serious health effects as a result of their exposure,” — Joseph Califano Jr., Secretary of Health, 1979

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Types of Asbestos Products Used on Destroyers

Hundreds of asbestos-containing products were used by the U.S. Navy in their ships, including the destroyer classes.

Asbestos was used in:

  • Insulating walls
  • Soundproofing
  • Fireproofing
  • Wires
  • Ropes
  • Cables
  • Rods
  • Ceiling and floor tiles
  • Paint
  • Caulking
  • Sealants
  • Adhesives
  • Valves
  • Gaskets

Asbestos was used abundantly and in many forms, although its use as insulation was the catalyst for infecting entire ships at a time.

Insulation could take the form of a spray, loose-fill, blocks, or pipe wrapping, allowing it to be applied to virtually any open crevice or space.

High Asbestos-Risk Occupations on Destroyers

Navy personnel who manufactured destroyers or spent their days in areas of the ships with low ventilation are at the highest risk of developing asbestos-related diseases, including mesothelioma.

The occupations put veterans close to the highest concentrations of asbestos-containing materials.

Help for U.S. Navy Veterans with Mesothelioma

U.S. Navy veterans who worked on or near destroyers containing asbestos are at an increased risk of having mesothelioma or another asbestos-related disease.

Because of the nature of mesothelioma, many veterans will only discover their conditions decades after the initial exposure, often with devastating consequences.

Compensation Options for Navy Veterans

Thankfully veterans with mesothelioma can receive financial and medical support from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). Other compensation options are options available.

If you served in the U.S. Navy and have since been diagnosed with mesothelioma, our team may be able to assist you.

Get our free mesothelioma guide, or call us at (866) 608-8933 if you have any questions..

Written by:

Lead Editor

Laura Wright is a journalist and content strategist with more than 15 years of professional experience. She attended college at the University of Florida, graduating magna cum laude with a bachelor’s degree in journalism in 2008. Her writing has been featured in The Gainesville Sun and other regional publications throughout Florida.

  1. United States Navy Official Website, General Information, Retrieved from http://www.navy.mil/ Accessed on 11 March 2018

  2. All Hands Military Magazine, “Asbestos: The Insulation That Lingers,” Retrieved from http://www.navy.mil/ah_online/archpdf/ah197912.pdf Accessed on 11 March 2018.

  3. Military.com, “Asbestos Illness Related to Military Service” Retrieved from https://www.military.com/benefits/veteran-benefits/asbestos-and-the-military-history-exposure-assistance.html Accessed on 11 March 2018

  4. Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, “Asbestos Fact Sheet” Retrieved from https://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/toxfaqs/tfacts61.pdf Accessed on 11 March 2018

  5. Mesothelioma Veterans Center, “Mesothelioma and Navy Veterans” Retrieved from https://www.mesotheliomaveterans.org/veterans/military/navy/ Accessed on 11 March 2018

  6. Department of Veterans Affairs, War Related Illness and Injury Study Center, “Asbestos Fact Sheet”, Retrieved from https://www.warrelatedillness.va.gov/WARRELATEDILLNESS/education/factsheets/asbestos-exposure.pdf Accessed on 11 March 2018

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