Auxiliary Navy Ships | Asbestos Use, Veteran Exposure, Examples (2023)

Fact Checked

This page has been fact checked by an experienced mesothelioma Patient Advocate. Sources of information are listed at the bottom of the article.

FREE Mesothelioma Packet

We make every attempt to keep our information accurate and up-to-date.

Please Contact Us with any questions or comments.

Auxiliary ships in the navy play a variety of specialty roles, such as transport, research, and repair.[1] Like other navy ships, the auxiliary ships contained hundreds of materials and components made with asbestos. Many navy veterans became sick decades after serving on them.

(Video) Special Guest: Military Exposure Expert Dr. Victoria Cassano

FREE Mesothelioma Packet

About Auxiliary Ships and Asbestos

Like other Navy vessels built between the 1930s and 1970s, auxiliary ships played important roles but also put people at risk of asbestos exposure.

Auxiliary ships are named for the fact that they play multiple roles. Unlike other ships with very specific roles to play, these vessels were used for all kinds of jobs from medical care to rescue to research.

Early auxiliary ships were often heavily armed. However, after World War II, they became more specified for tasks not typically related to offensive or defensive measures. Modern auxiliary ships are armed just enough for self-defense.

While there are few auxiliary ships currently active in the U.S. Navy, there have been hundreds throughout history. Auxiliary ships ranged from small to large and performed duties like towing and tug, refueling, salvage and rescue, repairs, and more.

Some were built as other types of ships, like cruisers, and then recommissioned as auxiliary ships. These are some of the designations under the category of auxiliary ships:[1]

  • Crane ships (AB)
  • Colliers (AC)
  • Ammunition ships (AE)
  • Store ships and combat store ships (AF and AFS)
  • Icebreakers (AGB)
  • Environmental research ships (AGER)
  • Major communication relay ships (AGMR)
  • Survey ships (AGS)
  • Hospital ships (AH)
  • Cargo ships (AK)
  • Vehicle cargo ships (AKR)
  • Oilers – fuel oil tankers (AO)
  • Transport ships (AP)
  • High-speed transport ships (APD)
  • Aircraft ferry (AKV)
  • Net laying ships (AN)
  • Repair ships (AR)
  • Ocean tugs (ATO)
  • Seaplane tenders (AV)
  • Aircraft escort vessels (AVG)
  • Distilling ships (AW)
  • Unclassified ships (IX)

The History of Auxiliary Ships in the U.S. Navy

Unlike some ships in the U.S. Navy, which go into dry dock between wars, auxiliary ships have served in major wars since World War I as well as during peacetime.[2]

World War I

The U.S. Navy first acquired ships to build its auxiliary fleet for World War I. Many ships were privately owned, but the Navy acquired and commissioned these private vessels to build its fleet. Most were used during the war to transport men and supplies.

After the war, the Navy decommissioned the ships and began to build its own auxiliary fleet, consisting mostly of transport ships and repair ships. The Navy also seized German ships to convert and commission.

Auxiliary Ships in World War II

During and leading up to World War II, Naval shipbuilding accelerated. Auxiliary repair ships became especially important, so offensive ships could continue operating during the war.[3]

The military also commissioned oilers to refuel vessels at sea during the war. The Navy also built barracks, ships, and store ships during this time.

The Korean and Vietnam Wars

During the Korean War, the auxiliary fleet expanded more slowly; however, the Navy continued to build and commission vessels to keep military forces supplied with weapons for the conflict.

These ammunition ships continued to be important during the Vietnam War. Transport ships were no longer necessary as in previous wars; instead, the Navy employed large aircraft for moving personnel.

(Video) Dr. J. Phillip "Jack" London, U.S. Navy (Full Interview)

Modern Auxiliary Ships

Today, the auxiliary force is smaller than in the past. In 2006, however, the Navy created a new category of auxiliary vessel: the dry cargo and ammunition ships, AKE. The first ship in this category was the USNS Lewis and Clark (AKE-1).

Other active auxiliary ships include barracks ships, unclassified ships, dry cargo ships, and vehicle cargo ships.[4]

Most modern auxiliary ships used by the Navy are non-commissioned. Rather than carrying the title USS, they are USNS ships, which stands for United States Naval Ship. USNS ships are part of the Military Sealift Command, an organization that mans ships with civilians to supply Navy ships and conduct other special missions.[5]

How Was Asbestos Used in Auxiliary Ships?

For a period of several decades, most ships in the U.S. Navy were made with asbestos. This occurred between the 1930s and 1970s and included auxiliary ships.[6] Asbestos was widely used because it was cheap and abundant.

Asbestos was also effective for insulating, fireproofing, and strengthening materials while remaining flexible. This helped asbestos materials fit into awkward spaces on ships.

Hundreds of components on Navy ships contained asbestos, including:[7]

  • Pipe and other types of insulation
  • Firefighting equipment and gear
  • Fireproof materials
  • Valves
  • Gaskets
  • Pumps
  • Sealing
  • Adhesives
  • Rope
  • Deck matting

Areas of highest asbestos use are those that generated the most heat: engine rooms, pump rooms, torpedo rooms, and boiler rooms.

Which Navy Auxiliary Ships Contained Asbestos?

Essentially every ship built during this time period used asbestos. Several specific Navy auxiliary ships had confirmed asbestos use. These include the following:

  • USS Caliente, commissioned 1943
  • USS Caloosahatchee, commissioned 1950
  • USS Sangamon, commissioned 1942
  • USS Carpellotti, commissioned 1959
  • USS Delta, commissioned 1952
  • USS Wyandot, commissioned 1944
  • USS Hector, commissioned 1949
  • USS Cabot, commissioned 1943
  • USS Cowpens, commissioned 1943
  • USS Franklin, commissioned 1943
  • USS Monterey, commissioned 1943
  • USS San Jacinto, commissioned 1943
  • USS Myrmidon, commissioned 1945
  • USS Arcadia, commissioned 1945
  • USS General G.O. Squier, commissioned 1943
  • USS Vulcan, commissioned 1941
  • All AP designated ships built in the 1940s

Who Was at Risk of Exposure to Asbestos on Auxiliary Ships?

Workers and U.S. veterans who constructed, maintained, and repaired auxiliary ships were at the greatest risk of asbestos exposure. These workers regularly handled asbestos materials and products that went into the ships. They may have cut and fitted materials or manipulated them in other ways, releasing tiny asbestos fibers into the air.

Anyone could be exposed when asbestos materials were damaged by repairs, accidents, or normal wear and tear. A ship’s close quarters also provided poor ventilation, increasing the risks for asbestos exposure and inhalation.

Sailors at greater risk were those stationed in areas with less ventilation and more asbestos, as well as those who handled asbestos parts. This includes those working in boiler and engine rooms, pipefitters, ship fitters, electricians, and firefighters.

The longer someone served on these ships, the greater the risk of exposure. Exposure could have occurred before World War II through the Vietnam era.

How Did Asbestos on Navy Auxiliary Ships Harm Veterans?

Workers could then inhale those microscopic asbestos fibers, putting them at risk of developing mesothelioma or other illnesses, sometimes decades later.[6]

(Video) VA Disability Benefits for Respiratory Conditions

When asbestos materials are disturbed—by maintenance and repair work, attacks, accidents, or neglect—they release fibers into the air. Those fibers, once inhaled, can cause damage to tissues and cells in the body, leading to scarring or cancer.

How Can Navy Veterans Get Benefits and Compensation?

If you or someone you love served on auxiliary ships in the U.S. Navy, you should be aware of the risks of developing mesothelioma or asbestosis. These illnesses often do not develop symptoms until decades after the exposure. The most important thing to do immediately is to get screened for asbestos illnesses.

Veterans with a diagnosis of mesothelioma or another asbestos disease can seek benefits and compensation through several avenues:

  • VA Healthcare. The VA offers veterans harmed by active service free healthcare at facilities around the country. Those in Boston and Los Angeles have access to mesothelioma specialists.
  • VA Disability Benefits. You can also make a claim with the VA for disability compensation. The VA gives mesothelioma a disability rating of 100%. Veterans with this type of cancer might be eligible for maximum monthly compensation.
  • Lawsuits. Veterans cannot sue the military for asbestos exposure, but they can file lawsuits against companies that provided asbestos parts for Navy shipbuilding. Many of these cases end in settlements for veterans.
  • Asbestos Trust Funds. Companies that went bankrupt over asbestos set up trust funds to compensate victims. If applicable, a veteran can file a claim for compensation with the appropriate trust.

You should receive screening for asbestos illnesses if you have been exposed.Then talk to a veterans’ advocate who can help you recover damages and compensation through the Veterans Administration. Talk to a mesothelioma lawyer about filing a lawsuit or making a trust fund claim.

Get Your FREE Mesothelioma Packet

Page Written by Mary Ellen Ellis

Auxiliary Navy Ships | Asbestos Use, Veteran Exposure, Examples (1)

Mary Ellen Ellis has been the head writer for since 2016. With hundreds of mesothelioma and asbestos articles to her credit, she is one of the most experienced writers on these topics. Her degrees and background in science and education help her explain complicated medical topics for a wider audience. Mary Ellen takes pride in providing her readers with the critical information they need following a diagnosis of an asbestos-related illness.

Connect with Mesothelioma Writer Mary Ellen Ellis

Get Your FREE Mesothelioma Packet

(Video) Talking Toxic Exposure in Veterans!

Page Edited by Patient Advocate Dave Foster

Auxiliary Navy Ships | Asbestos Use, Veteran Exposure, Examples (2)

Dave has been a mesothelioma Patient Advocate for over 10 years. He consistently attends all major national and international mesothelioma meetings. In doing so, he is able to stay on top of the latest treatments, clinical trials, and research results. He also personally meets with mesothelioma patients and their families and connects them with the best medical specialists and legal representatives available.

Connect with Patient Advocate Dave Foster


  1. NavSource Naval History. (n.d.). Auxiliary and Service Force Ships.
    Retrieved from:
  2. Naval History and Heritage Command. (2017, November 17). US Ship Force Levels 1886-Present.
    Retrieved from:
  3. National Park Service. (2020, March 27). The Boston Navy Yard During World War II.
    Retrieved from:
  4. Naval Technology. (n.d.). Lewis and Clark Class T-AKE Dry Cargo and Ammunition Ship.
    Retrieved from:
  5. Military Sealift Command. (n.d.). About MSC.
    Retrieved from:
  6. War Related Illness and Injury Study Center. (2013, August). Exposure to Asbestos.
    Retrieved from:
  7. Marine Insight. (2019, October 24). Asbestos on Ships: Is the Toxic Still in Use?
    Retrieved from:

View All References


1. Project Crossroads - Nuclear Test Film (1946)
(Nuclear Vault)
2. Pawn Stars Chumlee Sentenced To Life In Prison After This
(Tasty Gossip)
3. How much money will the military get? | Defense News Weekly Full Episode 4.2.2022
(Military Times)
4. Eve Online Faction Warfare Explained! The EASIEST Way For Beginners to PVP!
(Resurrected Starships)
5. Honoring Military Veterans: Four Approaches to Achieving a Veteran-Centered Nursing Practice
(Springer Publishing Company)
6. Women in the Persian Gulf War
(Library of Congress)
Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Wyatt Volkman LLD

Last Updated: 04/21/2023

Views: 6288

Rating: 4.6 / 5 (66 voted)

Reviews: 89% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Wyatt Volkman LLD

Birthday: 1992-02-16

Address: Suite 851 78549 Lubowitz Well, Wardside, TX 98080-8615

Phone: +67618977178100

Job: Manufacturing Director

Hobby: Running, Mountaineering, Inline skating, Writing, Baton twirling, Computer programming, Stone skipping

Introduction: My name is Wyatt Volkman LLD, I am a handsome, rich, comfortable, lively, zealous, graceful, gifted person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.