Long Beach Naval Shipyard
This influential shipyard was located between San Pedro and Long Beach, CA, south of the Los Angeles International Airport. Home to three graving docks and five industrial piers, Long Beach Naval Shipyard has over 12,000 linear feet of ship berthing space which allows for great productivity and quick ship building practices.
The Long Beach Naval Shipyard performed many ship repair tasks while in operation because it had the ability to work with sheet metal, boilers, rigging systems, electronics, welding projects, sandblasting, wood working, and pipe fittings. The shipyard was fully equipped to succeed in the industry.
Over the years, the Long Beach Naval Shipyard was able to complete several special assignments in addition to routine shipbuilding. These assignments included scientific projects with programs such as Polaris, Poseidon, and Sealab. Long Beach Naval Shipyard was one of the most technologically advanced yards of its time.
During World War I and World War II the primary responsibility of the yard was to rebuild and repair damaged warships. They handled the repair for a number of different types of ships including tankers, destroyers, and cruisers. By the end of the war, the shipyard employed over 16,000 civilian employees.
The shipyard closed after World War II but was reopened during the Korean War. It remained open until it was shut down in 1997. During this period the Long Beach Naval Shipyard was responsible for the repair of the Navy's non-nuclear surface ships. During the high point of operations the shipyard had 130 permanent buildings, 39 semi-permanent buildings, and six temporary buildings. It had 17 different work areas including 2,400,000 square feet of covered building space. Though most shipyards concentrated on ship building during the war, the Long Beach Naval Shipyard relied mostly on repairing and remodeling ships. In 1943, the Secretary of the Navy established the yard as a US Naval dry dock named Roosevelt Base. The name was then changed to Terminal Island Naval Shipyard until 1948 - when it was changed to Long Beach Naval Shipyard.
Long Beach Naval Shipyard had a solid reputation among its clients. Because of the many repair and overhaul procedures, the working conditions were often harsh for employees. In fact, ships were often insulated using the deadly material asbestos. As these ships were repaired and overhauled, asbestos particles often became airborne. Asbestos is not normally dangerous if it is kept intact, but once it is disturbed the fibers are sent into the air. The fibers can then be absorbed into the respiratory system and can cause severe health problems, including mesothelioma and asbestosis.
Employees who were at a higher risk for asbestos exposure typically worked within the ships. Welders, pipe fitters and electricians were among the most dangerous positions. Asbestos was found within insulation, gaskets, boilers and cement. However, it could be found in a wide variety of other places during the shipbuilding process. Unfortunately, the health effects of asbestos were not understood in these times, so there were no precautions taken against asbestos exposure and the related illnesses. Additionally, mesothelioma sometimes is not diagnosed for up to 30 years after the initial exposure to asbestos. The symptoms typically are not present for several decades.
The contributions that the Long Beach Naval Shipyard has made to the US Navy should not be overlooked. Although dangerous, asbestos was thought to be a miracle of sorts because of its fire retardant capabilities. Today, asbestos is rarely used. Unfortunately, many of those people who previously worked at shipyards are just beginning to notice the effects of asbestos exposure. There is so much history attached to the Long Beach Naval Yard. It is unfortunate that so many are affected by these debilitating asbestos-related illnesses.
Last modified: December 28, 2010.