For centuries, asbestos has been a material prized for its strength and its ability to withstand heat and flame. Though it was used as long ago as Roma times, it was most extensively used following the dawn of the Industrial Revolution and throughout the 20th century. Though asbestos was used heavily in industrial and construction applications, one of its most constant uses was in applications for the United States military. Because asbestos offered such a high degree of protection from fire, explosions and heat and was also such an effective form of insulation, it was a valued and ubiquitous component of living quarters, mess and dining halls, transportation, equipment, and even protective clothing. All branches of the service were exposed to asbestos during World War II and the years thereafter until it was discovered to be a dangerous carcinogen. Those who were exposed include vast numbers of men and women who served in the U.S. Army.

If you or someone you love served in the Army and has been diagnosed with mesothelioma or any other asbestos-related disease, you may be entitled to compensation from the asbestos companies. No matter what your mesothelioma stage, this compensation can come from filing a mesothelioma lawsuit or from filing a claim with the $30 billion asbestos trust funds. For more information on your rights and the reimbursement you may be able to receive, contact us today. We will send you a free Financial Compensation Packet, or put you in touch with one of our compassionate and experienced mesothelioma attorneys.

The U. S. Army’s History of Asbestos Use

The U.S. Army was first established in 1775, during the American Revolution. At that time and ever since, it has attracted and employed more personnel than any other branch of the military, and its physical reach extends to bases located all over the United States and across the world. The organization has a fleet of multiple types of vehicles ranging from jeeps to armed personnel carriers, from trains to other forms of transportation used by hundreds of thousands of enlisted personnel and officers in support of the mission. Whether in times of battle or in peace time, the U.S. Army is one of the best equipped organizations in the world. Unfortunately, during the years leading up to World War I and through the Iraq War years, a large percentage of the Army’s infrastructure and equipment was fabricated using asbestos. This has led to untold death and illness, including mesothelioma and other asbestos-related diseases.

Though most talk of the military’s use of asbestos dates to the Industrial Revolution, it was first used by the Army long before that. In the 1800s the military found that they could use the material with rubber to help make gaskets that could withstand the pressure and heat generated by their army trains’ steam engines.  The trains were in invaluable way for the Army to transport large numbers of troops quickly, and particularly over long distances. Once the material’s usefulness was well established, it began to be used in other applications, and particularly in other forms of transportation such as seagoing vessels and steamboats that were also powered by steam engines.

Asbestos is an inexpensive material that is readily available, so the more useful it was discovered to be, the more the Army added on other applications. Soon it began to be used in construction of the Army’s administrative buildings, its barracks, its dining halls, and even its roadways. Asbestos was incorporated into insulation, roofing tiles, drywall and joint compounds for walls, and ceiling and floor tiling. The introduction of more machinery and technology only brought more uses of the material, as it was used in brake linings of vehicles and for the insulation in pipes and equipment. All of these uses were for the purpose of either protecting the service men and women from heat and flame, keeping them comfortable, or making their equipment operate more efficiently and effectively. Unfortunately, at the same time that they were reaping these benefits, they were unknowingly being exposed to a dangerous carcinogen.

Even Protective Clothing was Made with Asbestos

Asbestos was used to such a great extent that even the protective clothing that soldiers wore was made of material that had asbestos fibers woven into it, and the gas masks used during World War I used asbestos filters. This means that when soldiers would don the masks to protect them against harmful gases, they were inadvertently inhaling asbestos directly into their lungs. Firefighters were equipped with heavily padded gloves, jackets and trousers to allow them to avoid injury when combatting fames both on base and in the field, and tanks, parachute flares jeeps and bandages incorporated asbestos containing materials as well. Taking all of this into account and remembering that between 1941 and 1945 over 8.2 million people served in the Army, it is no wonder that so many members of the military were impacted by asbestos-related diseases.

Concerns About Asbestos Supplies During World War II

Because so many of the military’s vital operations were dependent upon asbestos, there were great concerns about maintaining the flow of it into the United States as well as on keeping it out of the hands of the enemy. When word spread that the Nazis were attempting to purchase asbestos from South Africa the Army acted to prevent it, and concerns ran high when rumors spread that they might have found an alternative material.

The Truth About Asbestos Revealed

Even after the war was won, the American military continued to depend upon asbestos for vital parts of its operations, and the Army was one of its chief users for the next thirty years. Asbestos companies were some of the Army’s most important contractors and they relied heavily on the profits they earned from the military in general, so it comes as no surprise that even after they learned of asbestos dangers, they kept the information to themselves. Among the top manufacturers of asbestos products for the Army were Johns-Manville and W.R. Grace, and there is ample evidence that both had received information about the health hazards posed by asbestos exposure long before the information became public in the 1970s.  Their failure to share the information with the Army led to its continued purchase of asbestos, and to untold numbers of military men and women being diagnosed with asbestos-related diseases.

By 1973, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) conducted research that led to the public becoming aware of the dire impact that asbestos has on human health. They found that it was the cause of mesothelioma, as well as playing a large role in the development of asbestosis and lung cancer.  Though these illnesses had been diagnosed long before these findings, the idea that asbestos was behind it had only been suspected. These studies revealed it as fact. Later it would be revealed that the asbestos companies had conducted their own studies in the early 20th century and had purposefully colluded to keep the information secret.

The Tragedy of Asbestos Use in the Army and the U.S. Military

Upon learning of asbestos’ dangers, the Army immediately ceased its use of all products that contained asbestos and discontinued using it in construction and its machinery. Unfortunately, this cessation of use was too late to help the tens of thousands of Army personnel who had been exposed in the previous fifty years. Asbestos that was already in place continued to present a threat until it was completely removed: in some cases, Army buildings still may have asbestos hidden within its walls.

It will be decades before the full impact of asbestos in the Army is truly understood. There are currently approximately 3,000 mesothelioma victims diagnosed per year, and many more are diagnosed with other asbestos-related diseases such as asbestosis or lung cancer. Though mesothelioma is the only one of the asbestos-related diseases that is always considered fatal, all of them are life changing. Because these diseases have extremely long latency periods, people who were exposed as late as the 1980s may not begin to show symptoms until the year 2030.  

Legal Help

People who served in the Army and who have been diagnosed with mesothelioma are not able to file lawsuits against the government, but they may be eligible to receive VA disability benefits and medical care. Additionally, you may be able to hold the companies that provided the asbestos-contaminated materials responsible for the harm that they have suffered. For information about the steps needed to get compensation from the $30 billion asbestos trust funds, or to file a mesothelioma lawsuit against the asbestos companies that negligently exposed them to asbestos, you need the assistance of a law firm that specializes in asbestos lawsuits. If you or someone you love has an asbestos-related condition like mesothelioma, asbestosis, or asbestos lung cancer, contact our office today at 1-800-706-5606. We will put you in touch with one of our experienced mesothelioma attorneys or send you a free Financial Compensation Packet that will provide you with helpful information about the compensation that you may be eligible to receive.