Skip to Content

Fore River Shipyard

Expert Fact Checked

This page was legally reviewed by Jennifer Lucarelli. For information on our content creation and review process read our editorial guidelines. If you notice an error or have comments or questions on our content please contact us.

Jennifer Lucarelli Lawyer and Legal Advisor

The former Fore River Shipyard was in operation from 1883 to 1980 in Quincy, Massachusetts. The shipyard produced hundreds of ships, including destroyers and aircraft carriers. Asbestos was used for several decades of the shipyard’s history in shipbuilding and repair. As a result, many people may be at risk for developing asbestos-related diseases such as mesothelioma. Today, The United States Naval Shipbuilding Museum and the USS Salem occupy the former shipyard grounds and are open to the public.

01. Shipyard History


Fore River Shipyard was located in Quincy, Massachusetts, between 1883 and 1980. Fore River Shipyard was started by Thomas Watson, who began work building marine engines before opening the shipyard.

Fore River Shipyard built a wide range of ships, including the first submarine that was officially commissioned by the U.S. Navy. In the early 1900s, the yard also contracted with the Imperial Japanese Navy. Bethlehem Steel bought the shipyard in 1913. During World War I (WWI), the shipyard built submarines, merchant ships and destroyers. During World War II (WWII), with 32,000 employees, the shipyard produced destroyer escorts, landing ships and 71 destroyers.

General Dynamics bought Fore River Shipyard in 1964 and built naval support vessels, civilian merchant ships and nuclear submarines. That work was eventually moved over to its sister shipyard, Electric Boat in Connecticut. In 1980, with an oversaturation of shipyards in the U.S., Fore River Shipyard closed.

Fore River Shipyard is now home to The United States Naval Shipbuilding Museum and the USS Salem.

Fore River Shipyard History at a Glance

  • Other Names: General Dynamics, Bethlehem Steel Company, Bethlehem Fore River
  • Location: Quincy, Massachusetts
  • Owner(s): Quincy Shipbuilding Division of General Dynamics Corporation, Bethlehem Shipbuilding Corporation, Ltd. and Thomas Watson’s Fore River Ship & Engine Company
  • Years of Operation: 1883 – 1980
  • Wartime Operations: Russo-Japanese War, World War I (WWI), World War II (WWII) and the Cold War
  • Number of Employees: 32,000 in 1943
  • Size of Shipyard: 180 acres
  • Noteworthy Ships: USS Hancock, USS Bunker Hill, USS Wasp, USS Gato, USS Lawrence Y. Spear, USS Dixon, USS Kansas City, USS Savannah, USS Portland, USS Pensacola, USS Fort Fisher, USS Kalamazoo, USS Salem, USS Bainbridge
  • Noteworthy Personnel: Thomas A. Watson, Frank O. Wellington, Admiral Francis T. Bowle, James J. Kilroy, Florence DiTullio
  • Types of Ships Built/Serviced: Protected cruisers, torpedo boat destroyers, lightships, battleships, schooners, scout cruisers, freighters, submarines, freight steamers, passenger steamers, fishing trawlers, colliers, tugs, steam yachts, barges, lighters, tankers, car floats, destroyers, battleship-cruisers, scout cruisers, aircraft carriers, ferries, cruisers, cutters, guided missile cruisers, nuclear-frigates, ammunition ships, fleet replenishment oilers, dock landing ships, helicopter landing-ships

Many workers at Fore River Shipyard 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

Fore River Shipyard produced hundreds of ships over its lifetime. Ships were built for the military and commercial clients. Two notable ships that were built for the U.S. Navy were the submarine tender, USS Lawrence Y. Spear, and the aircraft carrier, USS Hancock.

USS Lawrence Y. Spear

The submarine tender USS Lawrence Y. Spear was laid down at Fore River Shipyard in 1996. Throughout her history, USS Lawrence Y. Spear received many awards and accolades, but she is most famous for being one of the first ships to have women assigned as crew members. This historic event first took place in October 1978. In 1980, she was also the first ship to initiate women as Shellbacks as they crossed the equator.

Quick Ship Facts
  • Ship’s Name: USS Lawrence Y. Spear, aka USS L.Y. Spear
  • Year Built: 1966
  • Years in Service: 1970 – 1996

USS Lawrence Y. Spear provided support for the Iran hostage crisis in 1980 and Operation Desert Storm in 1991. One of her last missions before being decommissioned in 1996 was support for the recovery and salvage of TWA Flight 800.

USS Lawrence Y. Spear was built and active during a time when it was common for asbestos to be used in shipbuilding and repair. Anyone working or serving on the ship may be at risk of developing asbestos-related diseases such as mesothelioma.

USS Hancock

USS Hancock was an aircraft carrier laid down at Fore River Shipyard in 1943. She fought against Japan in WWII in 1944 and 1945. She was involved in numerous attacks causing massive destruction to enemy territory. During these attacks, she was hit by several suicide planes causing multiple fires on board, as well as many causalities.

Quick Ship Facts
  • Ship’s Name: USS Hancock, aka “Fighting Hannah”
  • Year Built: 1943
  • Years in Service: 1944 – 1947, 1954 – 1956, 1956 – 1976

In 1946, she was decommissioned and entered the reserve fleet at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard.

After conversion and modernization, USS Hancock was recommissioned in 1954, decommissioned in 1956 for additional conversions and recommissioned that same year. She participated in the Vietnam War throughout several deployments beginning in 1965 through 1975. She was decommissioned in 1976.

For her entire lifespan, many materials used to build, repair and modernize the USS Hancock contained asbestos. This asbestos put her workers and crew members at risk of developing mesothelioma.

02. Shipyard Asbestos Use

Asbestos Use at Fore River Shipyard

Asbestos is a durable mineral that is highly resistant to heat. Due to these properties, shipbuilders often used asbestos during the construction process. Products containing asbestos helped control the release of heat and were fire-resistant. Such products were desirable on ships.

Fore River Shipyard actively operated from 1883 to 1980. Asbestos was commonly used during many of these decades. Asbestos was used throughout Fore River Shipyard. The dangerous mineral was often present in boilers, incinerators, insulating materials and other elements of ships. This put those in various shipyard occupations at risk of developing asbestos-related diseases.

Asbestos product highlight: Adhesives, sealers and bondings

Adhesives were used to install and repair a variety of products, such as pipes, boilers and furnaces. These products had to hold up in the harsh conditions of their environment. Manufacturers added asbestos to these products to strengthen them and extend their lifetime. People who worked with or near these adhesives were likely exposed to asbestos.

Asbestos Exposure at Fore River Shipyard

Fore River Shipyard bustled with the activity of private citizens and military personnel. With the amount of asbestos in shipyards and ships, U.S. Navy veterans faced frequent exposure. Civilian workers and visitors also faced asbestos exposure risk. Before the 1980s, any shipyard visitor faced potential asbestos exposure and the risk of developing malignant mesothelioma cancer.

Maintenance workers on warships, steamers, aircraft carriers, submarine tenders and other ships faced the same risks. Poor ventilation on ships combined with pervasive asbestos use made exposure common. For example, plumbers and pipefitters were exposed through the normal duties of their jobs.

Exposed to asbestos at work: Plumbers and pipefitters

Workers who installed and repaired pipes and plumbing were at risk of asbestos exposure. The dangerous mineral was often used to insulate plumbing fixtures throughout ships. Any time the material was disturbed, workers faced a risk of inhaling asbestos fibers.

Asbestos use all but stopped before the 1980s. However, people can still be exposed at shipyards when working on ships maintained or built pre-1980. Various shipyard duties, including sanding or sawing pipes for installation, exposed workers to asbestos.

03. Asbestos Lawsuits

Asbestos Lawsuits and Settlements

Shipyard workers, veterans and visitors of Fore River Shipyard 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 asbestos 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

Various companies that used to manufacture asbestos products have not filed for bankruptcy. Individuals can file lawsuits against such companies. Asbestos lawsuits can provide victims compensation through verdicts or settlements.

For example, Westinghouse Electric Corporation, which purchased the television network CBS Inc. in 1995, became the leading supplier of reactors for U.S. submarines in the 1940s. The company also made radar and other electrical systems used in submarines. Asbestos was likely used in the creation of these products, putting Navy service members at risk of asbestos-related diseases.

IMO Industries (formerly IMO DeLaval) has a long history of producing turbines, compressors, pumps and motion control equipment. Many of their products contained asbestos and were prevalent at Fore River Shipyard. Asbestos exposure from these products put people at risk of developing mesothelioma.

Some of these victims have filed successful lawsuits against the companies.

Example Lawsuit Recovery for Fore River Shipyard Worker

53-Year-Old Former Steamfitter Diagnosed With Mesothelioma

Recovery: $1.5 million

Years of Asbestos Exposure at Fore River Shipyard: 1971 – 1979

A 53-year-old former steamfitter spent eight years at Fore River Shipyard. He worked throughout the base but mainly in the power plants. The power plants produced high-pressure steam. During summer, boilers would undergo maintenance and overhaul, if needed. This maintenance included stripping and reapplication of the boilers’ asbestos insulation for repair and replacing asbestos gasket material. This work created large quantities of asbestos dust that the steamfitter breathed in.

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 a claim with that product manufacturer’s trust.

Asbestos Company Trust Funds and Eligible Years of Employment

The following companies provided asbestos products to Fore River Shipyard. 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 Fore River Shipyard 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
A.P. Green 1/1/1942 1/2/1968
Babcock and Wilcox 1/1/1942 12/31/1982
Combustion Engineering 1/1/1940 12/31/1982
Fibreboard 1/1/1940 12/31/1982
Flintkote 1/1/1970 12/31/1982
Halliburton 1/1/1936 12/31/1982
Keene Corporation 1/1/1951 12/31/1982
Owens Corning 1/1/1940 12/31/1982
Pittsburgh Corning 1/1/1969 12/31/1982
United States Gypsum 1/1/1942 12/31/1982