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Electric Boat began operation in 1899 and is best known for its production of submarines. The U.S. Navy’s first commissioned submarine, the USS Holland, was built at the shipyard in 1900. In 1954, Electric Boat launched the first nuclear submarine, the USS Nautilus. Throughout the shipyard’s history, asbestos was used in submarine and shipbuilding and repairs. With such a long history and large number of employees, tens of thousands of Navy personnel are at risk of developing mesothelioma.


01. Shipyard History

History

General Dynamics Electric Boat, in Groton, Connecticut, has been in operation since 1899.

The shipyard has been the primary producer of submarines for the U.S. and its allies for most of its history. Electric Boat was active during both world wars, producing 85 submarines during World War I (WWI) and 74 submarines during World War II (WWII).

During the Cold War, Electric Boat constructed the world’s first nuclear submarine in 1954 and the world’s first ballistic nuclear submarine in 1959. In the 1980s, shipyard employment peaked at 25,000. While employment numbers ebbed and flowed throughout the years, the shipyard always remained active.

General Dynamics Electric Boat still operates today and has produced nearly all of the U.S. Navy’s Los Angeles, Virginia, Seawolf and Ohio class submarines.

General Dynamics Electric Boat History At-a-Glance

  • Other Names: Electric Boat, EB, Electric Boat Shipyard
  • Location: Groton, Connecticut, along the Thames River
  • Owner(s): John P. Holland and Isaac Rice, Henry R. Carse, Lawrence York Spear and General Dynamics Corporation
  • Years of Operation: 1899 – Present
  • Wartime Operations: World War I (WWI), World War II (WWII) and the Cold War
  • Number of Employees: 25,000 during the Cold War
  • Size of Shipyard: 118 acres
  • Noteworthy Ships: USS Cuttlefish, USS Holland, USS Nautilus, USS Flasher, USS George Washington, USS Patrick Henry, USS Triton, USS Sturgeon, USS Philadelphia, USS Ohio, USS Lafayette
  • Types of Ships Built/Serviced: Submarines, submarine chasers, patrol torpedo boats

Many workers at General Dynamics Electric Boat 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

While General Dynamics Electric Boat has produced combat surface ships, for more than 120 years, the shipyard has been a leader in submarine production. The USS Sturgeon and the USS Nautilus are just two notable submarines on a long list of the shipyard’s history of submarine building.

USS Sturgeon

The USS Sturgeon was a fast attack submarine that was laid down at the General Dynamics Electric Boat Company in 1963. She was the lead ship in her class. She conducted surveillance and reconnaissance missions, took part in battle and strike group operations and provided precision strike capability and ground warfare support.

Quick Ship Facts
  • Ship’s Name: USS Sturgeon
  • Year Built: 1963 – 1966
  • Years in Service: 1967 – 1994

Some of USS Sturgeon’s missions were classified. Other missions included the search for USS Scorpion that went down in the middle of the North Atlantic Ocean, testing and evaluating a new sonar detection device and providing support to SEAL teams. She was decommissioned in 1994 and dismantled at the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard. Her sail is part of the permanent exhibit at the Naval Undersea Museum in Keyport, Washington.

USS Sturgeon was built and active during the height of asbestos use in submarine building. Workers and crewmembers who were aboard the submarine are at risk of developing asbestos-related diseases.

USS Nautilus

The USS Nautilus was the first nuclear-powered submarine. Her keel was laid down by President Harry S. Truman at the Electric Boat Shipyard on June 14, 1952. In 1958, she conducted the first crossing of the North Pole by ship under “Operation Sunshine.” She had a complete overhaul in 1959 at Portsmouth Naval Shipyard. In 1966, she again entered the record books when she logged her 300,000th mile underway.

Quick Ship Facts
  • Ship’s Name: USS Nautilus
  • Year Built: 1952 – 1954
  • Years in Service: 1954 – 1980

During the following 12 years, USS Nautilus was involved in a variety of developmental testing programs. She continued to serve alongside many of the more modern nuclear-powered submarines she had preceded.

She was decommissioned in 1980 and was designated a National Historic Landmark by the Secretary of the Interior on May 20, 1982. Following an extensive historic ship conversion at Mare Island Naval Shipyard, USS Nautilus was towed to Groton, Connecticut, arriving in 1985. In 1986, she joined the Submarine Force Museum.

From the time her keel was laid down to the time she was converted at Mare Island Naval Shipyard, asbestos was used on the USS Nautilus. This would have put anyone working on her at risk of developing mesothelioma.

02. Shipyard Asbestos Use

Asbestos Use at General Dynamics Electric Boat

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.

General Dynamics Electric Boat has been in operation since 1899. Asbestos use was common during the mid-19th century. 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 General Dynamics Electric Boat

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 malignant mesothelioma cancer.

People who constructed or maintained submarines, submarine chasers and patrol 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

Shipyard workers, veterans and visitors of General Dynamics Electric Boat are at risk of developing mesothelioma, asbestos cancer or another asbestos illness. Those diagnosed have several claim options to receive financial compensation.

Asbestos-disease victims can seek compensation from the companies responsible for their exposure. An individual’s claim options will vary depending on each company’s current status. Victims can work with a mesothelioma lawyer to discuss their options and obtain compensation through a lawsuit, settlement, trust fund and/or VA claim (or a combination of these types of claims).

Holding Asbestos Companies Responsible

Some companies that produced asbestos products are still viable. This means the company hasn’t filed for bankruptcy. Thus, individuals can file lawsuits against that company. These lawsuits could end in verdicts or settlements.

For example, Atwood & Morrill, which is now a legacy brand of Trillium Flow Technologies, provided valves for ships during WWII and for the Navy’s first nuclear submarine, the USS Nautilus. These valves contained asbestos in their packing and gaskets.

Elliott Turbomachinery Co. wrongfully exposed people to asbestos at General Dynamics Electric Boat through its pumps. As a result, victims filed successful lawsuits against these companies.

Example Lawsuit Recovery for General Dynamics Electric Boat Worker

61-Year-Old Former Machinist and Planning Supervisor Diagnosed With Mesothelioma

Recovery: $2.5 million

Dates of Asbestos Exposure at General Dynamics Electric Boat: 1964 – 1980

A 61-year-old machinist and planning supervisor spent 16 years at General Dynamics Electric Boat. Throughout his time at Electric Boat, he had exposure to various asbestos-containing products. In particular, he manufactured piping hangers and installed piping systems. This required disassembly and reassembly of gaskets, flanges and packing which contained asbestos. Other asbestos-containing products he worked with included turbines, condensers, gears, valves and various pumps.

04. Asbestos Company Trusts

Asbestos Company Trusts

Some companies who wrongfully exposed people to asbestos turned to bankruptcy to handle asbestos-related claims. Since the 2000s, more than 100 companies have taken this approach. Many of these asbestos companies created trust funds in order to compensate victims of asbestos-related diseases.

Shipyard workers developed asbestos-related diseases after working with asbestos products. One compensation option for these individuals is to file a claim with that asbestos company’s trust.

Asbestos Company Trust Funds and Eligible Years of Employment

The following companies provided asbestos products to General Dynamics Electric Boat. 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 General Dynamics Electric Boat 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
Babcock & Wilcox 1/1/1969 12/31/1982
Combustion Engineering 1/1/1951 12/31/1982
Fibreboard 1/1/1928 12/31/1982
G-I Holdings (GAF) 4/5/1965 12/31/1982
Keene Corporation 1/1/1951 12/31/1982
Owens Corning 1/1/1928 12/31/1982
Pittsburgh Corning 7/1/1962 12/31/1982

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