Written By: Camryn Keeble

Asbestos on Navy Destroyers and Destroyer Escorts

The United States Navy has a long history of using destroyers and destroyer escorts in its fleet. Destroyers are small, fast warships designed for various roles, while destroyer escorts are a smaller, less heavily armed version designed specifically for convoy escort duty during World War II. Unfortunately, these hefty warships contained mass amounts of asbestos, putting thousands of Navy veterans at risk of severe health conditions.

Retired LCDR Carl Jewett

Reviewed By

Retired LCDR Carl Jewett

VA-Accredited Claims Agent

Retired LCDR Carl Jewett

Reviewed By

Retired LCDR Carl Jewett

VA-Accredited Claims Agent

Hazards of Asbestos on Navy Destroyers and Destroyer Escorts

Throughout the 20th century, U.S. Navy destroyers and destroyer escorts played a vital role in protecting American interests at sea. These types of vessels were designed for a variety of missions, including anti-submarine warfare, escorting convoys, and providing fire support for amphibious landings. 

Like all Navy ships, destroyers and destroyer escorts were built to withstand powerful seas and warfare. These vessels required strong and durable materials for their construction, but one of the key materials used by Navy shipbuilders is known to be the only cause of a rare cancer called mesothelioma. This cancer is caused by exposure to asbestos, which was commonplace in destroyers and destroyer escorts built before the Navy began curbing its use.

Asbestos can be found throughout nearly every Navy ship built before the 1980s. The toxic substance was used in various ways for its heat resistance and durability. Asbestos-containing materials can likely be found in the engine rooms and boilers, insulation of pipes and electrical equipment, turbines, deck tiles, condensers, pumps, main engines, HPACs, ductwork, valve packing material, gaskets and more. 

Because of the widespread use of asbestos throughout the Navy and other branches, military asbestos exposure is the cause of many veterans’ health issues.

History of Navy Destroyers and Destroyer Escorts

In World War II, U.S. Navy destroyers and destroyer escorts played a critical role in the Battle of the Atlantic, which was the longest continuous military campaign of the war. These vessels were used to escort convoys of merchant ships across the Atlantic, protecting them from German U-boat attacks. Destroyers were also used in the Pacific Theater, where they provided anti-aircraft defense for aircraft carriers and supported amphibious landings.

During the Korean War later in the 20th century, U.S. Navy destroyers and destroyer escorts were primarily used for escort duty, protecting larger ships from enemy attacks, and engaging in shore bombardments.

During the Vietnam War, destroyers and destroyer escorts were similarly used for escort duty, shore bombardments, and anti-submarine warfare. However, they also had a more significant role in providing naval gunfire support for ground forces, particularly during the Tet Offensive in 1968.

Destroyers and destroyer escorts were also tasked with enforcing the naval blockade of North Vietnam, intercepting and inspecting ships suspected of carrying supplies for the enemy. They were also involved in search and rescue missions for downed pilots and crew members.

If you are a Navy veteran who served on a destroyer or destroyer escort, you may have been exposed to asbestos on your ship. Contact our VA-Accredited Claims Agent, retired LCDR Carl Jewett, to find out more information or for assistance filing your VA claim.

Sources & Author

  1. A port bow view of the destroyer USS SPRUANCE (DDG-963) homeported at Naval Station Mayport, FL, operates off the coast of Haiti. Wikimedia Commons. Retrieved from: https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=96875658. Accessed: 09/05/2023.
Camryn Keeble image

About the Writer, Camryn Keeble

Camryn Keeble is the senior content writer and editor for Mesothelioma Guide. She creates informative content to educate mesothelioma patients and their loved ones on news, treatments and more. She also works diligently to raise awareness of the dangers of asbestos exposure and the effects of mesothelioma.