The Brown Shipbuilding Company was formed in Houston, Texas in 1941. The yard was
formed as a subsidiary of the existing Brown and Root, an American engineering and
construction company operating out of Houston. The Brown Shipbuilding Co. was
initially formed as an emergency shipyard to begin construction for WWII naval vessels,
particularly a type of U.S. Navy destroyer known as a submarine chaser.
Initially established on a Navy subsidy of $9 million, the Brown Shipyard was located
at the junction of Houston's ship channel and Green's Bayou inlet. The founders,
Herman and George Brown, had no experience in shipbuilding but were well versed
in what it would require to manage a large scale industrial operation. Between May
of 1943 and August 1944, the Brown Shipbuilding Co. produced 61 vessels, an average
of one ship every week. Following the emphasis on destroyer escort ships, the yard
switched focus to amphibious assault craft, of which they built nearly 250 amphibious
assault craft known as "LM's" between 1944 and 1946. By the conclusion of WWII and
the occupation of Japan and Germany, the Brown Shipbuilding Co. had produced almost
350 vessels, accumulating nearly $500 million in sales to the navy. Following the war,
the yard was sold to Todd Houston Shipbuilding Company until Todd Houston closed its
operation in 1985. The Yard reopened under Brown and Root in 1986 for barge and large
vessel repair and remained an important piece of the Gulf's shipping industry until
2004 when the property was sold in pieces to a number of different buyers.
At the height of WWII, the Brown Shipbuilding Co. employed over 25,000 skilled workers.
Production was so efficient under Brown management that they yard was recognized with
a Presidential citation in 1944. The driving force behind all this production was the
will of the workers who manned shipyards such as the Brown operation during WWII.
These men and women poured their hearts and souls into the industrial war effort.
They were an indispensable aspect of the war effort.
Some of these workers manned jobs that left them exposed to potentially dangerous
chemicals or toxins, including asbestos. Asbestos was used in the internal construction
of nearly all ships during the WWII era. In areas such as boiler rooms, piping, and
electrical installations, asbestos was used as an insulation material and was regularly
exposed to the workers of these areas. It is important that if you worked at the Brown
or other shipyards and may have been exposed to asbestos, that you seek the counsel of
a physician who is literate in asbestos induced respiratory ailments. Early detection
is the single most important aspect of these illnesses with regards to improvement of
treatment options and quality of life issues. If you or someone you know may have been
exposed, symptoms can take several years to develop. It is important to know early so
you can employ the full range of medical, emotional, or legal options available to you.
The Mesothelioma & Asbestos Awareness Center aims to provide the most current and
accurate information regarding asbestos exposure and its link to mesothelioma cancer.
As you know, many Navy veterans were unknowingly exposed to asbestos while working
in shipyards, and while onboard ships and submarines. The USS Vance is one of those
vessels. When built at Brown Shipyard, asbestos was used as an insulator for many
parts of the engine room and boiler room.
You can find much more information and a list of shipyards at their web site.
Mesothelioma & Asbestos Awareness Center web site
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