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Located just 23 miles south of Los Angeles International Airport, between Long Beach and San Pedro, sat the Long Beach Naval Shipyard. The Shipyard’s location was ideal because it was only minutes from the open sea while still safe within the protected west basin of the Port of Long Beach.

The shipyard opened in 1940 and soon cargo ships, troop transports, destroyers, and cruisers all received routine repairs at the dry docks.

After the heavy workload created by WWII began to subside at the end of the war, the yard was supposed to be leased to Bethlehem Steel Company. Instead, the U.S. Navy, ordered that the yard be converted into a U.S. Naval Dry Dock named Roosevelt Base, California. In 1945 the name changed to Terminal Island Naval Shipyard and then to Long Beach Naval Shipyard in 1948. The shipyard was temporarily decommissioned in 1950, but it only remained inactive for a month until the Korean War began when the shipyard’s repair capabilities were once again needed. From then on, the shipyard provided fleet support in the Southern California area and performed mainly overhaul and maintenance of non-nuclear surface ships for the US Navy, until it closed in 1997.

Long Beach Naval Shipyard occupied only 109 acres of the 214 acre of lot and housed 165 buildings five industrial piers and three graving docks. With its extensive equipment and service capabilities the shipyard performed numerous ship repair and maintenance functions involving nuclear and non-nuclear structural repairs, sheetmetal, boiler, rigging, electronics, electrical, ordinance, sandblasting, welding, machining, woodworking, painting and pipe fitting.

Many projects including the Polaris, Poseidon, and Sealab projects have received support from the Long Beach Naval Shipyard. Eventually the shipyard expanded its potential workload to include modifications such as self-help habitability modifications, and female habitability modifications, as well as jet blast deflectors, butterfly valves etc. Long Beach Naval Shipyard employed nearly 3,000 civilians, and roughly 800 MWR and Navy Exchange personnel. The vast majority of these employees were highly skilled engineers and production workers.

In 1991, 38 ships originally based in Long Beach were relocated to other west coast ports, causing the loss of approximately 17,000 jobs and the eventual closing the of the shipyard in 1997.

Asbestos was frequently used in the building and repair of ships. As a result, shipyard worker and veteran asbestos exposure was common at this and other shipyards. Mesothelioma is primarily caused by asbestos and as a result, many men and women have developed this deadly disease that has a short life expectancy attached to it.

Written by

Tara Strand Senior Content Writer

Tara Strand specializes in researching and writing about asbestos, raising awareness and advocating for a ban.

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Reviewed By

Jennifer Lucarelli Legal Advisor and Contributor

Jennifer Lucarelli is a partner at the law firm of Early, Lucarelli, Sweeney & Meisenkothen, specializing in asbestos litigation.

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