USS Billfish SS-286 (1943-1948)

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Commissioned by Lt. Comdr. Frederic C. Lucas, Jr., the Billfish set sail via the Panama Canal for the southwest Pacific in 1943. It reached Australia on August 1st and later embarked on its first war patrol from the port of Brisbane on the 12th. It is credited for having chased an unescorted tanker near the Balabac Strait.

Action in World War II

On September 8th, the Billfish followed a group of five ships along the Indo-Chinese coast. It continued hunting down enemy shipping vessels in collaboration with the Bowfin (SS-287) until the 10th of October when its maiden patrol reached termination at Freemantle.

Around the first week of November, while heading to Australia through the Celebes Sea, the Billfish withstood an attack of 15 depth charges and reached Freemantle safely on 24th December, 1943. On January 19, it set out towards the South China Sea for its third war patrol.

Its final war patrol began on the 12th of July, 1943. This mission landed it back in Japanese waters. It survived two air attacks and performed lifeguard duty in the Volcano Islands. Because of its collision with a fishing ship on August 5th, it received orders from Japan to return to Hawaii. Its wartime career was doomed with the arrival of the submarines at Pearl Harbor on the 27th.

After the War

The Billfish was transported to the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in June 1946 for its inactivation haul. It was taken back to New London by ATR-64 where it was decommissioned on the 1st of November. In reserve,on November 6, 1962, it was reclassified as AGSS-286.   Finally, on the 1st of April, 1968, its name was stricken from the Navy List and the Billfish was scrapped.

Asbestos in Navy Ships

Although an essential component of the naval fleet, especially throughout conflicts of the last century, submarines also pose a lasting health risk to soldiers serving on them. However, these risks extend beyond the inherent dangers that existed while operating the vessels during military conflicts. Unfortunately, products containing asbestos were also common aboard submarines because of the material’s high resistance to heat and fire. Despite its value as an insulator, asbestos fiber intake can lead to several serious health consequences, including mesothelioma, a devastating cancer without cure. Furthermore, the enclosed environment of submarines put servicemen at an even higher risk of exposure. Current and former military personnel who came into contact with or served on submarines should seek immediate medical attention in order to detect possible health consequences associated with asbestos exposure.


Naval Historical Center


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