Part Four in a Series About Asbestos and the Military – What You Need to Know

USMC Flag Raising On Iwo Jima 1945
In our continuing series about asbestos in the armed forces, we have taken a look at how military personnel were exposed to asbestos as they lived and worked on land bases, in the air and at sea.

Asbestos fiber, widely used throughout all branches of the military during the last century, was incorporated into housing, dining, recreational and medical structures, as well as in the ships, aircraft and vehicles used by our nation’s armed forces. From floor tile to engine parts, the products supplied to the military by American manufacturers were interwoven with asbestos fibers because those fibers offered inexpensive strength, heat and sound insulation, and fire-resistant properties.

Unfortunately, as those products became worn with time and use, dangerous asbestos fibers were released into the air, where they were ingested or breathed by our military service personnel. Over many years, those fibers slowly impeded the ability to breathe in many service men and women, eventually causing the potential for asbestosis or lung cancer, even the deadly cancer known as mesothelioma.

The lawyers at Baron & Budd never sue the United States military.

We sue the manufacturers who put asbestos into products that were used in the construction and insulation of land facilities, aircraft, vehicles and aboard ships at sea. Today we will discuss how our United States Marines were exposed to the lethal toxin asbestos.

Marine Barracks Mare Island California

Since occupying the first Marine barracks next to the Washington D.C. Navy Yard in 1801, the men and (later) women of the Marine Corps have evolved into a fast-reacting, light infantry fighting force carried primarily by the Navy to deploy amphibious landings on enemy-held lands where they specialized in building and defending forward bases. With a unique communication system between ground and air, shore and sea, the Marines developed an integrated, multi-dimensional, amphibious and airborne assault force which was deployed widely in World War II and in the Korean, Vietnam, Persian Gulf and Middle East conflicts since.

The construction of an increased number of forward bases in the mid 1900s required material that was lightweight, flexible, strong and resistant to heat and chemical damage. Asbestos fibers fit the bill perfectly and were incorporated not only into the buildings erected, but were also used in armored vehicles, aircraft, and the sea-going vessels which transported Marines into combat.

Thousands of Marines had to be housed stateside while being trained and between deployments. Camps with barracks all over the United States (and elsewhere) were constructed of asbestos-laden materials, including floor tile, cement wallboard, plaster and stucco, putty and grout, sheetrock mud, ceiling tile, roofing materials, siding, and heating and plumbing insulation.

Marines were transported to battle and on peacekeeping maneuvers aboard Navy vessels. They shared poorly-ventilated eating and sleeping quarters with sailors aboard ship, breathing the same re-circulated air on the lower decks where aging, asbestos-wrapped steam pipes, fireproofed floors, walls, ceilings and hulls, insulated boiler rooms and munitions bays released microscopic asbestos fibers into the air with every shudder of the ship’s propellers.

M60 Patton Marine Tank
In 1957 the Marine Corps embraced the newly-developed M60 Main Battle Tank, employing the armored fortresses by the thousands. These panzers were heavily fortified with asbestos insulation and fireproofing. Their 105 mm main gun and 7.62 and 12.7 mm machine guns needed asbestos-woven gloves to operate when hot. In addition, Marine Corps transport vehicles utilized asbestos-coated wiring, brake pads, clutch facings and engine gaskets. Amphibious landing vessels and all-terrain vehicles likewise contained asbestos-coated firewalls and other components. Gunners and their assistants wore asbestos mittens to prevent burns when handling hot ammunition casings in many types of armored vehicles.

Asbestos products have been identified at Marine Corps bases in North and South Carolina, California, Hawaii, Virginia, Cuba and Japan, and at Marine recruiting depots, training centers and air stations in Hawaii, Arizona, California, Virginia, as well as the original Marine barracks at the Navy Yard in Washington, D.C. While asbestos has not been employed in Marine Corps facilities constructed since the 1980s, many bases still utilize aging buildings where decaying asbestos materials can pose a threat when loosened or vibrated, allowing the dangerous fibers to become airborne.

In 1994 the U.S. Marine Corps implemented an OSHA-compatible asbestos safety program. But before that there were hundreds of Marine barracks, base facilities and mechanical shops which underwent haphazard asbestos removal, frequently conducted by untrained crews of enlisted men.  This exposure is in addition to the men and women who served on these bases and worked on or in Marine buildings, aircraft and vehicles. While veterans represent only 8 percent of the American population, they comprise an astonishing 30 percent of mesothelioma deaths in this country.

If you or one of your parents served in the Marine Corps and have been diagnosed with mesothelioma, please contact the lawyers at Baron & Budd to receive a completely confidential evaluation.

The Marines boast a rich history of being the most nimble, efficient and “first to fight” force among America’s military branches. To be struck down by such “friendly fire” in the form of deadly asbestos products furnished to the Marine Corps by American manufacturers seems especially unjust. You will not be asked to sue the government or the military. We pursue compensation from the asbestos manufacturers who knew the danger of asbestos but used it in their products, anyway, to the detriment of thousands of dedicated service personnel.