The USS Fulton (AS-11), the leader of its class of seven submarine tenders, was launched on 27 December 1940 by Mare Island Navy Yard and commissioned on 12 September 1941, with Commander A. D. Douglas in command. When the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, the USS Fulton (AS-11) was on its shakedown voyage out of San Diego. It was immediately sent to Panama, where it arrived on December 9th. The submarine tender spent the following month establishing advanced seaplane stations in the Gulf of Fonseca, Nicaragua, and the Galapagos Islands before returning to San Diego to prepare for Pacific service. Between the 1930s and the mid-1970s, asbestos use in shipbuilding reached a peak. The SS Thomas LeValley, like many other ships from the World War II period, was built using a variety of asbestos-containing materials. Asbestos was discovered in engine rooms, boiler rooms, navigation rooms, mess halls, and sleeping quarters, as well as in turbines, pumps, and valves. While working on the ships, shipbuilders and those who served on military vessels may have inhaled asbestos fibers in the air.