Asbestos in the military

USS Amberjack (SS-219)

USS Amberjack (SS-219)Description:  History of the U.S. Navy submarine USS Amberjack (SS-219) including information about asbestos exposure for workers.

The USS Amberjack (SS-219) was ordered for the U.S. Navy before the United States entered World War II. Her keel was laid down by the Electric Boat Company on May 15, 1941. She was launched on March 6, 1942 and commissioned on June 19, 1942 under the command of Lieutenant Commander John A. Bole, Jr.

USS Amberjack arrived at Pearl Harbor on August 20, 1942, heading out for her first patrol between New Ireland and Bougainville on September 3. She scored two torpedo hits on the Japanese freighter Shirogane Maru on September 19. The submarine made contact with more enemy ships in the week that followed, but she was forced to dive when they dropped their depth charges. She sank the cargo vessel Senkai Maru in early October and damaged two other enemy ships several days later before heading to Espiritu Santo for repairs.

Once her repairs were complete, the USS Amberjack was assigned to transport troops, fuel, and bombs to Guadalcanal, but her destination was changed to Tulagi during transit. She put in at Brisbane for refitting during November, heading out to patrol again on November 21. The submarine made several attempts to damage Japanese shipping over the next few weeks, but to no avail.

The USS Amberjack sustained minor damage from depth charges on December 20, but she was able to finish out her patrol, returning to Brisbane on January 11, 1943. After refitting and repair work, she left to patrol the Solomon Islands on January 29. She sank a Japanese freighter on February 4, but lost her Chief Pharmacist’s Mate due to machine gun fire. The submarine went on to patrol the area between Rabaul, Buka, and the Shortland Sea.

USS Amberjack made her last radio transmission on February 14, 1943, having captured an enemy aviator. She did not make her routine report on March 10, and she was presumed lost on March 22. It is believed that the submarine was lost on February 16 when the Japanese dropped nine depth charges in the area she was patrolling. She was struck from the Naval Vessel Register on June 21, 1943. The submarine received three battle stars for her service in World War II.

Like many other vessels from the World War II era, the USS Amberjack was constructed with a number of asbestos-containing materials. Asbestos was prized for its fireproofing abilities as well as its resistance to heat, water, and corrosion, so it was used in practically all areas of the submarine. Anyone who served onboard the USS Amberjack or was involved in her repair and overhaul was put at risk of developing asbestos-related illnesses like asbestosis, lung cancer, throat cancer, stomach cancer, colon cancer, rectal cancer, or mesothelioma, a deadly form of cancer that attacks the protective lining surrounding the lungs and other organs.

USS Amberjack workers should monitor their health carefully, and consult a doctor if they experience any symptoms associated with mesothelioma.  Anyone who worked in or around the USS Amberjack, and is diagnosed with mesothelioma, should also consider contacting a lawyer to discuss their legal rights.

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