USS Belknap (DD-251)
The Bethlehem Steel Corporation built this Clemson-class Destroyer at its Fore River Shipyard in Quincy, MA following the end of World War I. It was commissioned by the U.S. Navy in April of 1919, and assigned to the Atlantic Fleet after its shakedown cruise. The ship measured just over 314 feet in length, and held a complement of 130 officers and enlisted men. In 1940, the Belknap was converted to a Seaplane Tender, and recommissioned in November of that year. After the United States became entangled in World War II, the vessel became instrumental in aggressive antisubmarine warfare in the Atlantic, and received a Presidential Unit Citation for its service. It was again converted in 1944, this time to a high-speed transport, and reassigned to the Pacific Theater. The ship received three battle stars for its time in World War II, and ended its nearly three-decade service when it was decommissioned on August 4th, 1945.
For those who served aboard the USS Belknap, daily asbestos exposure was very likely throughout the course of their regular duty. Ships constructed prior to the mid-1970’s used asbestos in a great deal of the onboard equipment, such as boilers, turbines, pumps, valves, and electrical components. Materials including gaskets and packing were also often made entirely from asbestos. The majority of these asbestos products were located in the boiler and engine spaces, putting Boiler Tenders, Machinist’s Mates, and other Navy veterans who worked in these areas at particular risk. The asbestos companies that manufactured these asbestos products for the Navy were generally aware that asbestos could cause mesothelioma and other diseases, but did nothing to warn the sailors aboard the USS Belknap or other contemporary ships.
Victims of asbestos who served in the Navy are entitled to seek compensation. Settlements can cover the cost of medical bills, in part or whole, and may provide additional sums for pain and suffering. The law limits the time in which a lawsuit can be filed however, making it important to seek legal counsel soon after a mesothelioma diagnosis is made.