The Archerfish was constructed at the Portsmouth Navy Yard in New Hampshire. It was a Balao class submarine, weighing 1525 tons. The Balao class of submarine was arguably the most important and successful class of submarines ever produced by the United States Navy, created as an improvement over the earlier Gato class. The main improvement was the use of thicker, higher yield strength steel in the pressure hull frames and skins; this increased their test depth to 400 feet.
Action in World War II
In September of 1943, the Archerfish was commissioned and deployed to the Pacific, where it served through World War II. The Archerfish has the distinction of torpedoing and sinking the largest warship ever lost in combat: the Shinano. Its additional duties during this patrol were to serve as an aircrew rescue submarine, in addition to the typical war patrol duties. It was also on patrol in Tokyo Bay on September 2nd, 1945 when the formal surrender of Japan was announced.
After the War
The Archerfish was decommissioned from June of 1946 until March of 1952. It saw more active duty in the Atlantic Ocean from 1952 until 1955. Once again after this tour, it was put out of commission in October of 1955. This decommission lasted until August of 1957, when it was re-commissioned and assigned to act as a scientific research submarine for various military experiments.
In 1960, it was re-designated as AGSS-311, and performed in Operation “Sea Scan”; this operation was a global oceanographic undertaking that went on for a number of years. This run of duty lasted into the mid-1960s for the Archerfish. For the following three years, it helped with various research operations in the Pacific Ocean. In May of 1968, it was finally taken from active duty. Almost five months later, in October of the same year, the military sank the Archerfish while using it for a target during one of their testing operations.
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.