The U.S. Navy stockpiled asbestos for shipbuilding and repair during World War II. Asbestos was prized for its resistance to heat, fire, water, and corrosion. When the U.S. entered the war in 1941 there were seven active fleet carriers. The U.S. Navy had 25 active carriers by the end of 1944, including the USS Franklin, and asbestos was used in the construction and upgrade of these ships.
While asbestos was effective in slowing corrosion and retarding fire, it also posed a threat to those who inhaled or ingested the fine fibers. The U. S. Navy was aware that asbestos posed some health risks during WWII, but it was not until the 1960s that mesothelioma was confirmed as a cancer caused by asbestos.
The USS Franklin and Asbestos Use
Civilians and servicemen that were involved in the building of the USS Franklin CV-13 at the Newport News Shipbuilding and Drydock Yard prior to her launch in 1943 were exposed to asbestos. Exposure to the material did not occur just during the building of the carrier. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs has compiled a list of how service members were potentially exposed to asbestos, placing them at risk of mesothelioma or other asbestos related illnesses:
- Working in the shipyard after 1930
- Serving on a Navy vessel built prior to 1983
- Renovating asbestos-containing structures and/or removing asbestos materials
- Working below deck where asbestos was used and the ventilation was poor
- Removing damaged asbestos and then using asbestos material to re-wrap pipes
- Working with, damaging, or repairing materials that contained asbestos
Additionally, pipefitters, welders, boiler operators, and building renovation and demolition specialists working on the USS Franklin are also at risk for asbestos-related illnesses.
Asbestos and USS Franklin’s Heavy Damage During Battle
The USS Franklin joined the battles of the Pacific theater in June 1944 and was very active throughout the Pacific including the Marianas Islands, Iwo Jima and Guam. In October of that year she was struck by the enemy several times. During one attack, a bomb managed to hit her, killing three men and injuring 22 others. In the two weeks following, the Franklin helped to sink the Japanese battleship Musashi, the Japanese destroyer Wakaba, damaged three other Japanese ships, and sunk another ship during the Battle of Cape Engaño.
On October 30, 1944, the USS Franklin suffered three kamikaze attacks that killed 56 men and injured dozens of others. The aircraft carrier underwent interim repairs before sailing to Puget Sound Naval Shipyard for permanent repairs in November.
The USS Franklin returned to battle in the Pacific in February 1945, joining the task group striking at the Japanese home islands. A few weeks later two 250 kg bombs that knocked out radio communications, and set off a series of fires and explosions struck her. 724 men were killed and 265 were injured. Several members of the crew stayed on board to fight the fires and save the ship. The USS Franklin was towed to Pearl Harbor for temporary repairs and was then able to sail to Brooklyn Navy Yard for repairs in April of 1945.
The damage caused during the bombings and the subsequent repairs would be additional circumstances exposing the naval personnel to asbestos. When servicemen are fighting to save their ship and shipmates they are not thinking of risk to mesothelioma, and USS Franklin personnel were heroically performing their duties. Those that survived would not know for years if the asbestos on the USS Franklin would lead to debilitating health conditions.
The USS Franklin CV-13 Ends Her Career
After World War II ended, the USS Franklin was redesignated as a CVA 13 (attack aircraft carrier). In 1953 she was designated as a CVS 13 (antisubmarine warfare support carrier) and in 1959 she was made an aircraft transport carrier, but she never went back to sea. The aircraft carrier was taken off the Naval Vessel Register in 1964. The USS Franklin was sold for scrap to the Portsmouth Salvage Company in 1966.
Questions About the USS Franklin and Mesothelioma
Anyone who worked in or around the USS Franklin and asbestos was put at risk of developing life-threatening illnesses like mesothelioma or lung cancer. USS Franklin workers should monitor their health carefully, and consult a doctor if they experience any symptoms associated with mesothelioma. Anyone who worked on or around the USS Franklin, and is diagnosed with mesothelioma, should also consider contacting a lawyer to discuss his or her legal rights.
Nemeroff Law Firm is a nationwide expert law firm in mesothelioma and asbestos-related personal injury claims. We have obtained verdicts and settlements for victims of the debilitating effects of working with asbestos. If you or a loved one served on the USS Franklin and asbestos exposure may have caused your medical condition, contact us today for a consultation by telephone: 866-342-1929 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.