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Boston Navy Yard

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Jennifer Lucarelli Lawyer and Legal Advisor

The Boston Navy Yard was established in 1800 in the Boston Harbor. As a major player in many of the country’s wars, until its closing in 1974, the Boston Navy Yard built and serviced thousands of ships, including the USS Constitution and the USS Cassin Young. During its time as a fully active Navy shipyard, workers there were put at great risk of asbestos exposure. There are still active Navy personnel in the shipyard working on the USS Constitution. 

01. Shipyard History


Located at the meeting of the Charles River and Mystic River in Boston Harbor, this shipyard was established in 1800 and was an important wartime asset until it was retired in 1974.

As one of the earliest naval shipbuilding facilities, the Navy Yard was an innovator in shipyard technology and played an important part in the progress and effectiveness of the U.S. Navy. The men and women employed at the Charlestown Navy Yard built more than 200 warships, maintained and repaired thousands of others and proved their worth in each of the nation’s wars throughout its 174-year history. At its peak production during WWII, the shipyard employed 50,000 workers.

The Navy Yard is now home to the USS Constitution, a commissioned vessel in the U.S. Navy and the oldest warship still afloat worldwide. It is also home to the USS Cassin, a Fletcher-class destroyer built in 1943. While the Navy Yard has transitioned from an active military site into a National Park, the Navy is still present, with active-duty naval personnel stationed on the USS Constitution, as well as a skilled civilian maintenance workforce for the ship.

There is also a portion of the Navy Yard that is not included as part of the Boston National Historical Park that encompasses the twelve-acre Charlestown Naval Shipyard Park.

Boston Navy Yard History at a Glance

  • Other Names: Charlestown Navy Yard, Boston Naval Shipyard, Navy Yard at Boston, Navy Yard at Charlestown
  • Location: 114 16th Street, Charlestown, MA 02129 – At the junction of the Charles River and Mystic River in Boston Harbor
  • Owner(s): The United States Military, National Park Service and the City of Boston
  • Years of Operation: 1800 – 1974
  • Wartime Operations: War of 1812, Civil War, WWI and WWII
  • Number of Employees: 50,000 at its wartime peak
  • Size of Shipyard: 130 acres
  • Noteworthy Ships: USS Constitution, USS Frolic, USS Independence, USS Hartford, USS Merrimack, USS Intrepid, USS Cassin Young
  • Types of Ships Built/Serviced: Destroyers, sloop of wars, steam-screw frigates, monitors, torpedo boats

Many workers at Boston Navy Yard were potentially exposed to asbestos. Workers’ loved ones may have also experienced secondhand exposure. As a result, many people developed asbestos-related diseases, such as asbestosis, asbestos lung cancer, and pleural and peritoneal mesothelioma. People who developed an asbestos-related disease may be eligible for compensation.

Notable Ships Built and Repaired

Shipyard workers built and repaired many noteworthy ships at Boston Navy Yard. Workers built more than 200 ships and repaired thousands of other vessels during the yard’s 174-year history. Many of these ships served important roles in wartime efforts, including World War I and World War II.

Asbestos was often used in shipbuilding materials during this time period. As a result, many of the ships built and repaired at Boston Navy Yard contained asbestos products.

USS Constitution

The USS Constitution is the oldest commissioned ship afloat in the United States Navy. The ship is still in operation today as a historic site with naval officers and crew still serving aboard her. While she had sailed years before and participated in the war against Tripoli pirates, her greatest service was in the War of 1812. During this war, her crew defeated four British frigates and she earned the nickname “Old Ironsides” because the cannon fire from enemy ships seemed as if they couldn’t penetrate her strong oak hull.

Quick Ship Facts
  • Ship’s Name: USS Constitution, aka “Old Ironsides”
  • Year Built: 1794 – 1797
  • Years in Service: 1797 – 1830, 1844 – 1882

In 1830 the USS Constitution was deemed as unseaworthy, but due to public interest, the ship was preserved and rebuilt. In 1844, she began a circumnavigation of the globe and then was removed from active service in 1882. In 1905, she was opened to the public in Boston Harbor. In the early 1930s, the ship called at 90 American ports and was visited by 4.5 million people. Since 1934 the ship has been based at the Boston Navy Yard, sailing only two other times for celebrations in 1997 and 2012. During the 1930s, asbestos was used in boilers putting crew members who were on this tour and running the historic site at risk of asbestos exposure and, in turn, at risk of developing mesothelioma.

USS Cassin Young

The USS Cassin Young is a Fletcher-class destroyer built in 1943 in San Pedro, California. She served at a time when asbestos was used often in pipe coverings, gaskets, lagging and boilers. This put many crew members at risk of asbestos exposure and developing asbestos-related diseases including mesothelioma.

Quick Ship Facts
  • Ship’s Name: USS Cassin Young
  • Year Built: 1943
  • Years in Service: 1944 – 1946, 1951 – 1960

The USS Cassin Young is now docked at the Boston Navy Yard and open seasonally to visitors for guided tours offered by the National Park Service. She engaged in seven Pacific battles in WWII, even surviving two Kamikaze hits. During her WWII service, she also rescued 120 men from the carrier Princeton when it sunk in October 1944. After serving in the war, the USS Cassin Young was repaired, decommissioned on May 28, 1946, and placed in the reserve fleet.

USS Cassin Young was recommissioned on September 7, 1951 to serve in the Korean War and in 1952 she underwent a major overhaul at the Boston Navy Yard. In 1954, as part of an around-the-world cruise, the ship carried out patrols in Korean waters. From 1955-1959, Cassin Young performed routine duties in Atlantic and Caribbean waters with four Mediterranean deployments. During those years, the ship returned to the Boston Naval Shipyard five more times for overhauls. On April 29, 1960, Cassin Young was again decommissioned and mothballed at Norfolk Naval Shipyard, Virginia.

02. Shipyard Asbestos Use

Asbestos Use at Boston Navy Yard

Asbestos was used to manufacture many products. It was a popular additive because it increased the durability and heat resistance of substances. Such products were ideal for use in the harsh environments often present in the shipping industry.

Boston Navy Yard was in operation from 1800 to 1974. Asbestos use was common during this timeframe. The dangerous mineral was often present in items such as boilers, incinerators, insulating materials and other elements of ships. This means people who worked in shipyards have a high risk of asbestos exposure and of developing asbestos-related diseases.

Asbestos product highlight: Ceiling and floor tiles

Ceilings and floors inside ships had to withstand high temperatures and wear and tear. Asbestos was added to tiles to limit maintenance and replacement. It also served as an effective fire retardant. When people installed or repaired asbestos tiles, they were exposed to asbestos.

Asbestos Exposure at Boston Navy Yard

It was common for members of the U.S. military and civilians to provide labor in shipyards and on ships. Asbestos was used in most shipyards and aboard most Navy vessels from the 1930s to the 1980s. This likely exposure puts Navy veterans at an increased risk of mesothelioma.

People who constructed or maintained warships, submarines, cruisers, destroyers, sloop of wars, steam-screw frigates, monitors and torpedo boats during this time were likely exposed to asbestos. These people often worked in space-constrained and poorly ventilated areas, which possibly allowed more asbestos fibers to remain in the areas. For example, enginemen and machinists faced asbestos exposure.

Exposed to asbestos at work: Enginemen and machinists

Enginemen and machinists worked in engine rooms that were often laden with asbestos. The asbestos was contained in and around engine piping, insulation, adhesives and gaskets. Working in and around these items put these workers at a high risk of asbestos exposure.

Asbestos is no longer used in most manufactured products. However, its historical presence in ships and navy vessels can put people at risk of exposure. People who repair or decommission ships built from the 1930s to the 1980s currently face asbestos exposure. Many shipyard responsibilities, such as installing insulation and pipes, led to frequent exposure.

03. Asbestos Lawsuits

Asbestos Lawsuits and Settlements

Anyone who was onsite at Boston Navy Yard and came in contact with asbestos products is at risk of developing asbestos diseases such as mesothelioma. These individuals have many options for compensation.

Asbestos product manufacturers are responsible for exposing people to asbestos. The legal status of these companies can affect what compensation is available to victims. Mesothelioma lawyers can help victims determine if a lawsuit, settlement, VA claim and/or trust fund claim (or a combination of these) is the best compensation option.

Holding Asbestos Companies Accountable

Some asbestos product manufacturers remain in business today. This means these companies have not filed for bankruptcy and victims can file lawsuits against the company. Lawsuits may result in compensation through verdicts or mesothelioma settlements.

For example, people were wrongfully exposed to asbestos at Boston Navy Shipyard because of products supplied from Foster Wheeler. Products included boilers, steam generators and other power equipment. The company has had many lawsuits filed against it and been found liable for asbestos-related damages.

Crane Company is another viable company that made asbestos-containing products used in shipbuilding at Boston Navy Shipyard. These products included mechanical gaskets and valves which would have been used by tradesmen, including pipefitters.

Victims have filed successful lawsuits against both of these companies.

Example Lawsuit Recovery for Boston Navy Yard Shipyard Worker

57-Year-Old Machinist Mate and Striker Fireman Diagnosed With Pleural Mesothelioma

Recovery: ~$2.75 million

Dates of Asbestos Exposure at Boston Navy Shipyard: 1958-1961

A U.S. Navy machinist mate and striker fireman spent four years at Boston Navy Yard working on both the USS Norris and USS Dashiell while the ships were being overhauled. He testified to exposure to asbestos-containing pipe covering and gaskets which he cut and replaced creating asbestos dust that he breathed in. He also replaced lagging and valve packing that contained asbestos. While a fireman he was exposed to large quantities of asbestos dust during boiler overhaul.

04. Filing Asbestos Claims

Asbestos Company Trusts

After exposing unknowing people to asbestos, many companies have filed for bankruptcy. In fact, more than 100 asbestos companies have gone bankrupt since the 2000s. As a result of their filings, many of these companies were forced to create trusts to compensate victims of mesothelioma and other asbestos-related diseases.

Many Navy and civilian personnel were exposed to asbestos through their work in shipyards. These individuals used a variety of asbestos products. If a shipyard worker developed an asbestos-related disease, that person can file an asbestos claim with that product manufacturer’s trust.

Asbestos Company Trust Funds and Eligible Years of Employment

The following companies provided asbestos products to Boston Navy Yard. After facing many asbestos lawsuits and exposing innocent people to asbestos, these companies filed for bankruptcy and created trusts to pay victims. If an individual worked at Boston Navy Yard and developed a disease such as mesothelioma, they may be able to file a claim against these companies’ trusts.

Asbestos Trust Funds & Eligible Years of Employment
Asbestos Company Name Eligibility Start Date Eligibility End Date
Armstrong WI Trust 1/1/1966 12/31/1982
Babcock & Wilcox 6/1/1904 12/31/1982
Combustion Engineering 1/1/1943 12/31/1982
Fibreboard 1/1/1943 12/31/1982
Flexitallic 1/1/1941 12/31/1982
G-I Holdings (GAF) 7/16/1959 6/3/1960
Keene Corporation 1/1/1941 12/31/1981
Owens Corning 1/1/1967 12/31/1982
Pittsburgh Corning 7/1/1962 12/31/1982
United States Gypsum 1/1/1942 12/31/1982