USS Harold C. Thomas (DE-21) Areas With Asbestos Exposure

The USS Harold C. Thomas (DE-21) was an Evarts-class destroyer escort laid down on April 30, 1942, and launched on December 18, the same year. It was commissioned on May 31, 1943, under Comdr. H. Reich’s command with the hull number DE-21 and served in the U.S. Navy for 2 years until it was decommissioned on October 26, 1945. During its activities, the ship carried a complement of 198 people on board and had its main missions in San Francisco, Pearl Harbor, the Marshalls, Majuro, the Marianas, San Pedro, Eniwetok, the Gilberts and the Palaus. After the decommissioning, the ship was struck from the Navy List on November 28, 1945, and sold for scrapping the following year. For too many years, Navy service members were exposed to asbestos dust on a daily basis, and this despite the clear body of evidence that outlined the risks. Its remarkable durability and resistance to heat made asbestos an ideal material for insulating boilers, steam pipes, hot water pipes, and incinerators. A vessel on open waters is continuously in motion and often buffeted up, down, and sideways by winds and waves. All these movements can stir asbestos fibers into the enclosed spaces of a ship built with asbestos-containing materials. Consequently, Navy veterans were constantly at risk of inhaling or swallowing asbestos fibers.

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Shipmates on USS Harold C. Thomas (DE-21)