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S.S. Coxcomb Hill

The S.S. Coxcomb Hill was a T2 tanker built by Kaiser Shipbuilding for the U.S. Navy in 1945. There were many vessels of this type produced during the war. They were known as “oilers” and their primary function was to fuel combat vessels at sea. The T2 was among the largest of such vessels, measuring over feet from bow to stern and displacing over 21,000 tons.

The Hill was sold in 1947 to the Richfield Oil Corporation. It continued in service as a tanker with Richfield, and renamed David E. Day in 1951. In 1958, the vessel was transferred to Locust Tankers Inc. of Wilmington, Delaware. That same year, she was rebuilt and 51 feet were added to her length.

Ultimately, the former Coxcomb Hill was sold to a shipbreaker in Brownsville Texas and scrapped in 1976.

The installation of vast amounts of asbestos installation was standard procedure in ship construction from around 1935 onward. This was largely due to federal legislation that was passed in the wake of a cruise ship disaster that occurred off the coast of New Jersey in September of 1935. The S.S. Morro Castle caught fire on the way back from Cuba; nearly 140 passengers and crew were killed.

The asbestos manufacturers who stood to make a killing failed to inform Congress that their product was toxic. In fact, some of these companies had paid for research that confirmed what medical science and long suspected – and for the next forty years, W.R. Grace, Johns-Manville and other major players in the asbestos industry engaged in a major conspiracy to hide the truth when they could and distort it when they could not.

They were finally exposed in 1977 by a courageous litigator who literally went into the proverbial “lion's den” - in this case, the office of the CEO of Raysbestos, Inc. There, in a closet, a box full of correspondence had been stored since the late 1930s, documenting a campaign to mislead the nation about asbestos products.

When inhaled, asbestos fibers cause extensive damage to the inner surfaces of the lungs, and can actually get into almost any tissue and organ in the body. Depending on the type of asbestos, these fibers can cause internal scarring and/or chronic inflammation that can lead to the development of mesothelioma. Much also depends on the length of time the subject was exposed as well as the concentration of fibers. In the enclosed environment below decks, concentration of loose asbestos fibers would have been especially intense. For this reason, former Naval personnel and others who worked in maritime professions are particularly at risk for asbestos diseases. In fact, mesothelioma navy cases are more often reported by veterans that from any other branch of the military.

The symptoms of a disease such as malignant mesothelioma or asbestos lung cancer can take years, even decades to become apparent. If you worked or sailed aboard the Coxcomb Hill during the 1960s yet do not have symptoms, you may yet have a ticking time bomb in your chest or abdomen. It is important to discuss the possibility of asbestos exposure with your family doctor and get regular checkups and health monitoring if possible; asbestos cancer is actually treatable if diagnosed early enough.

Sources

Sources

Bowker, Michael. Fatal Deception: The Terrifying True Story of How Asbestos is Killing America. New York: Touchstone, 2003.

Mariners. “T2 Tankers-C.”
http://www.mariners-l.co.uk/T2C.html

The T2 Tanker Page. "A Brief History of the T2 Tanker."
http://www.t2tanker.org/t2-history.html

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