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Naval Base Kodiak in Kodiak, Alaska

Naval Base Kodiak in Kodiak, AlaskaDescription:  History of Naval Base Kodiak in Kodiak, Alaska, including information about asbestos exposure for shipyard workers.

Naval Air Station Kodiak was established in 1941, commanded by Commander John Perry. The location was chosen for the surrounding ice-free waters. It served as the principal advance naval base in Alaska and the North Pacific at the beginning of World War II.  Ships and submarines from Naval Base Kodiak played a critical role in the Aleutian campaign.

Nearby Fort Greely supplied coast artillery and infantry troops to defend against possible invaders.  Fort Abercrombie was established as a sub-post of Fort Greely with a permanent 8-inch gun battery in 1943.

The Coast Guard Air Station was commissioned in 1947 as an air detachment at Naval Air Station Kodiak. The U.S. Navy left Kodiak in 1971. The base is now known as Integrated Support Command Kodiak, the largest operating base of the U.S. Coast Guard in Kodiak, Alaska. Integrated Support Command Kodiak is homeport to USCGC Alex Haley, USCGC Storis, and USCGC Spar.

Naval Base Kodiak, Fort Greely, and Fort Abercrombie are now listed on the National Register of Historic Places, declared a National Historic Landmark in 1985.

Ships and aircraft that passed through Naval Base Kodiak were built using components that contained asbestos. Until the 1970s, asbestos was in common use because of its heat resistance, fire resistance, water resistance, and resistance to corrosion. It was cheap and readily available, so it could be found in wall insulation, floor and ceiling tiles, fire doors, valves, gaskets, boilers, turbines, incinerators, engine rooms, sealants, cement, hot water pipes, steam pipes, welding blankets, and rope. It was also a health hazard, and Naval Base Kodiak workers were exposed to asbestos without access to protective clothing, respiratory gear, or proper ventilation.

Asbestos inhalation and ingestion can cause a number of serious, often terminal illnesses. Some of these asbestos-related diseases are lung cancer, esophageal cancer, stomach cancer, colorectal cancer, asbestosis, and mesothelioma.

Asbestosis is a scarring of the lungs brought on by inhaling asbestos fibers.  It is characterized by shortness of breath, not coughing, and can lead to respiratory failure.  Asbestosis is an irreversible condition that can also lead to an increased risk of developing mesothelioma and lung cancer.

Mesothelioma is an aggressive form of cancer that attacks the mesothelium, or lining that surrounds the lungs.  It cannot be diagnosed for 20 to 50 years after initial asbestos exposure because the symptoms take so long to manifest. Symptoms of mesothelioma can mimic other illnesses such as pneumonia and lung cancer, so it is important to naval base workers to inform their doctors of their history of exposure to asbestos in order to obtain an accurate diagnosis. Mesothelioma has no cure, and it is resistant to traditional cancer treatments like radiation and chemotherapy. After receiving a diagnosis of mesothelioma, many patients only have about a year to live.

Naval Base Kodiak workers should monitor their health carefully, and consult a doctor if they experience any symptoms associated with mesothelioma.  Anyone who worked at Naval Base Kodiak and is diagnosed with mesothelioma should also consider contacting a lawyer to discuss their legal rights.