Built in 1942 by the Electric Boat Company, the USS Flasher (SS-249) took part in World War II, having earned 6 battle stars and a Presidential Unit Citation. The conning tower can now be seen at the National Submarine Memorial, in Groton, Connecticut. Although it enjoyed a successful career, the submarine was insulated with asbestos, a carcinogenic naturally occurring mineral whose inhalation can lead to diseases such as asbestosis, lung cancer, and mesothelioma. In 1946, it was decommissioned and later sold for scrapping.
Asbestos is a fibrous mineral that is both lightweight and fireproof. At one time, it was a popular choice for the insulation of pipes, boilers, electrical fixtures, and hull construction. Today, we know that asbestos is dangerous, but up until the 1970s, industrial, manufacturing, and military personnel came in contact with it on a regular basis. As a result, many former employees and military veterans are still diagnosed with asbestos-related conditions every year.