Asbestos and the U.S. Marine Corps

Marines who served throughout the mid-20th century may have been exposed to asbestos. Marines had a wide range of exposure because they flew, rode, or sailed with other military members on missions. Nearly all Marine vehicles and military bases were built with asbestos at that time.

Marines and Asbestos Exposure

Although the United States Marine Corps (USMC) is the smallest branch of the military, it still has over 2 Million veterans. These veterans played an important role in keeping our nation safe.

Marines may serve in combat both on land and sea. Because Marines could be deployed into many different types of missions, they often worked alongside other branches of the military during wartime. Marines risked life and limb to protect America’s freedoms.

But for several decades in the 20th century, Marines were put at risk of asbestos exposure.

Marines were exposed to asbestos from:

  • Navy ships
  • Army vehicles
  • Air Force planes
  • Marine bases and barracks

At the time, almost nobody was aware of the dangers of asbestos  — except for asbestos companies. They sold asbestos products even though they knew the associated health risks.

Asbestos was used in many products because it resists fire and is a great insulator. However, if these products were disturbed, dangerous asbestos fibers could enter the air.

If a Marine inhaled these fibers, they could eventually develop diseases like mesothelioma, a deadly cancer with no cure. Since these asbestos-related diseases take 20-50 years to develop, thousands of people who served in the military have fallen ill.

Compensation for U.S. Marines

Thankfully, there are options for Marines affected by asbestos-related diseases. If diagnosed, they can file for disability through the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). They can also work with an experienced mesothelioma law firm to get additional compensation.

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How Were Marines Exposed to Asbestos?

From the 1930s through the 1970s, asbestos was found in equipment, vehicles, and buildings used by the Marines. In the early 1980s, the government announced that asbestos was dangerous to human health. As a result, the military began to remove asbestos from its assets.

However, Marines were still at risk throughout the decade, as it took several years for most of the asbestos to be removed. Even today, some ships and bases contain asbestos products that could pose a threat to human health.

Marines could have been exposed to asbestos from many military assets, including:


Marines could be exposed to asbestos if they flew in or worked on military aircraft. These vehicles often used asbestos as an insulator and flame retardant. Marines were often transported in the cargo holds of huge aircraft. If nearby asbestos became disturbed, it could have exposed the Marines in masses.

Marines who helped build or repair aircraft were also at risk. Brake and clutch systems in aircraft used asbestos to reduce high levels of heat and friction. When they handled or replaced these products, they could have been exposed to asbestos fibers.

Bases and Buildings

Marine bases and barracks were frequently built with asbestos-containing materials. Most often, asbestos was used to line Marine barracks to keep them fireproof. It could also be found in roofs, doors, pipe and heating systems, and shingles.

Most Marines had a limited risk if the asbestos-containing materials were not disrupted. However, those who had to build or work on these bases were put in great danger. They may not have realized that they were inhaling microscopic — but lethal — asbestos fibers.


Ships built by the military once contained huge amounts of asbestos. The small, confined quarters on ships meant that asbestos fibers were almost inescapable if they were disturbed.

Asbestos could be found in some capacity almost anywhere on military ships. Dining halls, kitchens or galleys, and officer living quarters were all at risk since asbestos was used to make ceiling and floor tiles in these areas. It was especially prevalent in rooms that housed engines or boilers because asbestos helped insulate these high-heat areas.

Marines stationed on Navy ships for extended periods of time had the greatest risk of asbestos exposure, as the Navy used more asbestos-containing materials than any other branch of the military.


Marines who worked in shipyards faced the same dangers as those who served on ships — only in higher concentration. Because shipbuilding required raw asbestos-based materials, it was very easy for fibers to enter the air without notice.

Though it was not common for Marines to work in or around shipyards, some were assigned to work as guards or even on the ships themselves.


Marines often used vehicles that contained asbestos-based products. Jeeps, trucks, and armored carriers could all contain products with asbestos. However, tanks posed the greatest threat of asbestos exposure for Marines.

The M60 Patton tank was frequently used by Marines (as well as the Army) in the 1960s. This was the main tank used by the U.S. military, and it used asbestos insulation as a fireproof. If this insulation was damaged or wore out, it would release asbestos fibers.

Marines who served as vehicle mechanics also ran a high risk of asbestos exposure. When mechanics had to repair or remove vehicle parts made with asbestos, the fibers could be disturbed and inhaled.

Help for Marines Affected by Asbestos Exposure

If you or someone you love served in the U.S. Marine Corps and has been diagnosed with mesothelioma, there are some important steps to take.

The most important is to consult an experienced mesothelioma law firm. Sokolove Law is one such firm. We have over 4 decades of experience in handling mesothelioma claims for veterans.

Sokolove Law can help Marines:

  • File a disability claim through the VA: Because asbestos was widely used by the military, Marines can earn additional benefits if they get sick. However, you must be able to prove how your military exposure caused your mesothelioma. We have attorneys accredited through the VA that make the claims process easy.
  • File a legal claim with asbestos companies: A legal claim can help you earn compensation from those who wronged you. You will not sue the military or U.S. government but the manufacturers of asbestos products.

Filing a claim with Sokolove Law can help you cover the costs of your medical care and other expenses. Call (855) 854-2504 or contact us today to get a free case review.

Author:Sokolove Law Team
Sokolove Law Team

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Last modified: February 26, 2021