Located between Long Beach and San Pedro, Terminal Island was built upon 119 acres of a sandy island. It was during World War II that the naval facility on Terminal Island saw its heaviest use. With five industrial piers, three graving docks, and over 12,000 feet of berthing space, the shipyard provided battle damage repairs and maintenance for cruisers, destroyers, troop transports, cargo ships, and tankers.
At the peak of its operations in August 1945, the base employed over 16,000 civilian contractors. Both these employees and their counterparts in the service worked in 165 buildings, including 17 different shop work areas and the docks themselves. Combined, the facilities at Terminal Island were capable of performing every form of non-nuclear repairs or modification, including rigging, structural, electrical, and even design work.
However, the extensive list of repairs done at this shipyard also put employees at risk. Many shipyards, including Terminal Island Shipyard, used asbestos in the manufacturing of ships and in protective gear for employees. Unfortunately, asbestos is now a known carcinogen, and former employees and their family members may be at risk for mesothelioma. Mesothelioma is a rare cancer caused by inhaling asbestos fibers for an extended period of time.
Though the Terminal Island Naval Shipyard was placed on the inactive list in 1950, it was re-activated in January 1951 due to the onset of the Korean War. In the subsequent Cold War era, the shipyard was also responsible for projects related to the POLARIS and POSEIDON scientific projects. Along with many other military facilities, it was ordered closed at the conclusion of the Cold War and handed over to civilian use after 1997. Today, several lawsuits have arisen against the U.S. Navy because of this base’s asbestos exposure history, despite its prominent role in the past as it supported the World War II effort.