The Bath Iron Works of Bath, Maine constructed this Gearing-class destroyer for the U.S. Navy during the final days of World War II. It was completed too late to serve in that war, commissioned in June of 1946, and joined the Pacific fleet immediately following its shakedown and subsequent repairs. Measuring just over 390 feet in length, the ship carried a complement of 367 officers and enlisted men. Over the course of its three decade career, the ship earned four battle stars for operations conducted during the Korean War, and eight for battles fought during the conflict in Vietnam. It remained in active service until December 1978, when it was decommissioned and struck from the Naval Vessel Register.
Asbestos was a common material on ships built prior to the 1970’s; veterans who served aboard the USS Agerholm were therefore likely exposed over the course of their regular duty. Equipment carried on board, such as electrical components, boilers, turbines, pumps, and valves were made using asbestos, and materials such as packing and gaskets were often made from asbestos. Especially dangerous were the boiler and engine spaces on Navy ships, which held a high concentration of these asbestos materials. This left Boiler Tenders, Firemen, Machinist’s Mates, and others who worked in the areas at an elevated risk. The companies who provided the Navy with asbestos often knew of the dangers, but did nothing to warn the veterans who were at risk. This negligent attitude led many veterans to develop mesothelioma and other asbestos-caused illnesses later in life.
Victims of asbestos who served aboard the USS Agerholm and other ships from this era have a right to seek compensation. Settlements can help offset the high costs of medical care, and may provide additional sums for endured pain and suffering. The law limits the time during which a lawsuit can be filed however, so it is important that victims seek legal counsel soon after receiving a diagnosis.