USS Belleau Wood
|Type:||Light Aircraft Carrier|
The New York Shipbuilding Corporation of Camden, NJ constructed this 622 foot vessel during the Second World War. Originally intended to be built as the Cleveland-class light cruiser New Haven, the USS Belleau Wood was instead finished as an Independence-class light aircraft carrier, and was commissioned in March of 1943. With 1,569 officers and men aboard, the ship joined the Navy’s Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbor in July of that same year. Over the course of the war, the Belleau Wood received twelve battle stars, as well as the Presidential Unit Citation, bestowed upon U.S. and Ally ships for extraordinary heroism. The ship was decommissioned in 1947 and transferred to the French Navy in 1943, where it served an additional seven years before being returned to the United States and scrapped.
Those serving aboard the USS Belleau Wood were exposed to asbestos, the carcinogenic agent that is the sole known cause of the cancer mesothelioma. Navy ships built between the 1930’s and 1970’s used asbestos in much of the equipment on board, including boilers, turbines, valves, and much of the steam propulsion equipment. Gaskets and packing were also made of asbestos. The boiler and engine rooms of these ships were areas of especially high risk, due not only to a high concentration of asbestos equipment, but also to limited ventilation and the tight, enclosed space. Although the companies responsible for building the asbestos products were often aware of the threat the substance posed, they chose to not warn people of its dangers. This negligent silence resulted in many veterans succumbing to asbestos-related disease.
Mesothelioma victims who spent time in the U.S. Navy were likely exposed to asbestos during the course of their duty, and have the right to pursue compensation. Legal action will not interfere with VA benefits, and can potentially cover the cost of medical care and provide additional sums for pain and suffering. Limits have been placed on the time frame in which victims can act, so legal counsel should be sought soon after a diagnosis.