|Built:||Newport News, VA|
Newport News Shipbuilding constructed the USS Essex during World War II, laying the groundwork for the 23 Essex-class ships which followed. The aircraft carrier was commissioned by the U.S. Navy in December 1942, and began its first operations in the Pacific Theater soon afterward. It was involved in several campaigns on this front, earning thirteen battle stars and the Presidential Unit Citation for exceptional bravery against the enemy. After the war, the Essex was reclassified twice; first as an attack carrier, then again as an antisubmarine carrier. The vessel was involved in the Cuban Missile Crisis and the Korean War, where it was decorated further with four additional battle stars and a Navy Unit Citation before being decommissioned in 1969.
The crew of the USS Essex was likely exposed to asbestos during the course of their regular duty. Navy ships built between the 1930’s and the 1970’s used asbestos in much of the equipment on board, including boilers, turbines, electrical components, pumps, and valves. Materials such as gaskets and packing also were made of asbestos. Veterans who worked in the boiler and engine spaces are at the most risk, as these areas held the highest concentration of this asbestos equipment. The companies who sold these asbestos components and materials to the Navy were often aware of the health hazards, but kept this information from the sailors who would be working with their products. As a result, many Navy veterans have fell victim to mesothelioma, lung cancer, and other serious illnesses.
Victims of asbestos who served on the USS Essex or other ships from this period have a right to seek compensation, and will not sacrifice VA benefits by pursuing legal action. Settlements can offset or cover the staggering costs of medical care, and can often provide additional sums for pain and suffering. The law limits the time lawsuits can be filed however, so it is important to seek legal counsel soon after receiving a diagnosis.