Submarine workers served their nation well
By ADAM BOWLES
Norwich Bulletin, Sept 4, 2005
Submarine warfare is often presented in a romantic light.
Books have been written or movies filmed on dramatic undersea rescues, dangerous Cold War missions and heroic World War II battles.
But there is a history of submarines most people don’t learn about, and much of it is anchored in the region.
Far away from the front lines, thousands of men in Eastern Connecticut quietly made their contributions to the defense of the nation at Electric Boat, which designs, builds and supports submarines for the U.S. Navy — while becoming unwittingly exposed to a deadly enemy of a different kind.
In fact, more submarine builders died from asbestos exposure than those killed serving in submarines during World War II, Groton lawyer Stephen Embry said.
Now hundreds of them are sick and dying, local experts say.
“He was proud of what he was doing,” Barbara O’Neill said of her father, Owen O’Neill, who died of mesothelioma in 1996. “He felt like he served his country, too, but here, instead of overseas. He just loved building subs.”
Unlike the region’s few mass tragedies — dozens died during the Great Hurricane of 1938, for instance — this one has taken four decades to unfold.
The following short stories are testimonies from victims who share in this history and who have hired attorneys to file worker’s compensation claims against EB.