Asbestos in the Army

Army veterans make up a considerable number of those diagnosed with mesothelioma because of the use of asbestos in the construction of barracks, vehicles and aircraft.


Written by LCDR Carl Jewett


Fact Checked


‘This We’ll Defend’: Defending Army Veterans

Known as the strongest force in the world, the Army is the largest branch of the U.S. armed forces. Asbestos exposure in the Army is dependent mainly on the occupation of the service member and where they were deployed.

Manufacturing Companies are Responsible – Not the Army

It is estimated that over 300 asbestos products were used throughout the military between the 1930s and 1970s. It is important to note that the U.S. Army is not responsible for the exposure of veterans to asbestos. The companies producing these products engaged in methods to keep the dangers of asbestos secret.

What Army Veterans Should Know About Asbestos Exposure

Increased Asbestos Use

Asbestos exposure was the highest for soldiers between World War II and the 1980s. This is because the use of asbestos in the Army increased as the branch expanded.

Barracks and Vehicles Used Most Asbestos

Barracks and vehicles were the most frequent area where soldiers encountered asbestos. Army engineers and mechanics had the highest exposure risks.

VA Benefits for Soldiers

Army veterans who develop mesothelioma as a result of active duty service usually receive full benefits from the VA, about $3,100 per month.

Where Soldiers Encountered Asbestos

Asbestos was used in virtually every military application where insulation or fireproofing was required because of its efficiency and low cost. Therefore, asbestos has been used in the Army in most every building and vehicle constructed prior to the 1970s.

Soldiers who served in any battles up to the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars may have also been exposed to asbestos released into the air from damaged buildings. Learn more about asbestos exposure among Army vets in our free Mesothelioma Guide.


Army barracks are the most likely place that soldiers may have come into contact with asbestos. Fire resistance was an important part of construction in the military, so barracks across the globe have used asbestos in their construction. Construction materials were also some of the most common products to contain asbestos before the 1970s.

Some of the most common areas asbestos was used in Army barracks were:

  • Flooring tiles
  • Ceiling tiles
  • Electrical wiring
  • Roofing material
  • Siding
  • Insulation

Army Corps of Engineers

Soldiers faced a risk of asbestos exposure while they were in barracks, but this risk is minimal unless repairs or remodeling were taking place. The group of soldiers who most likely faced the largest risk was the Army Corps of Engineers, the group of soldiers who famously completed the construction of the Panama Canal in 1914.

The Corps of Engineers are tasked with the construction of these facilities and other projects such as the construction of locks and dams. This group is responsible for the construction of most of the Army and Air Force’s infrastructure.

Members of the Corps of Engineers who were involved with the first-hand construction of these barracks had the greatest risk of asbestos exposure.

Ironically, the Corps of Engineers is now responsible for the removal of asbestos found in barracks today. Barracks involved in remodeling or repairs generally require asbestos removal. This is because the use of asbestos in the military was so pervasive that replacing every instance of asbestos was too unwieldy.

Army Vehicles

Combat and support vehicles make up a significant amount of asbestos use in the Army. It was used in heating systems, brake pads, clutches and gaskets because of its resistance to heat. Gaskets made with asbestos, for example, won’t expand as easily when exposed to heat, which prevents costly oil leaks.

Military vehicles that were most likely to contain asbestos are those built prior to the initiation of regulations in the 1970s. Therefore, vehicles used in during and prior to the Vietnam War commonly contained asbestos. These vehicles range from ambulances to tanks. Some of the more historically notable Army vehicles that used asbestos are M4 Sherman tanks used in World War II and Huey helicopters used during Vietnam.


The United States Army Air Forces, led all air-based military operations before 1947. The USAAF was established when the United States declared war in World War II. In only four years the USAAF grew by over two million personnel and produced over 60,000 aircraft, including bombers, fighter planes and transport aircraft. Some of the more notable aircraft built during this time include the P-51 Mustang fighter plane and the B-17 bombers.

Pilots, crew members and aircraft mechanics all faced a risk of asbestos exposure on these aircraft. Gaskets, firewalls and heating systems were all packed with asbestos. Unfortunately, due the demands of wartime production, asbestos use increased significantly during World War II, averaging at about 783 million pounds produced annually.

How Can Army Veterans Take Action?

Army veterans, especially those who served prior to the 1970s, have a greater risk than most nonveterans of developing mesothelioma. Contact with asbestos was possible in barracks, virtually all Army vehicles and even aircraft. There are many resources available for veterans to get assistance including VA benefits.

Our VA-accredited claims agent is an expert at getting veterans the benefits they deserve. You can learn more about the benefits you’re entitled to and more in our free Veteran’s Support Guide.

Sources & Author

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About the Writer, Retired LCDR Carl Jewett, VA Claims Agent

LCDR Carl Jewett is a retired Naval Officer who serves as the Veterans Department Director and Patient Services Director at Mesothelioma Guide. He is a VA-Accredited Claims Agent with more than 10 years of experience filing asbestos-related VA claims. He has helped over 1300 veterans who have been diagnosed with asbestos-related illnesses get approved for VA Disability Compensation, VA Pension, and/or Aid & Attendance benefits. Because veteran’s are also entitled to compensation through the legal system, Carl has communicated with many mesothelioma law firms across the country. He has gained extensive knowledge of asbestos trust funds, mesothelioma lawsuits, settlements, and the claims process. He provides both veterans and civilians with information regarding their legal options.