The USS Argonaut, a 311′ 8″ submarine, was originally laid down at the Portsmouth, New Hampshire Navy Yard on October 1, 1944. It was commissioned on January 15, 1945, Lt. Commander John Sneed Schmidt in command.
On April 14, the Argonaut made for Key West, Florida for training operations with the Fleet Sound School and conducted special tests for lighter-than-air craft. Completing its assignment, the Argonaut left for Pearl Harbor on May 13, where it spent two weeks for repairs and training exercises. June 28 marked its first war patrol.
Action in World War II
On July 10, the Argonaut arrived in Saipan, proceeding to the Formosa Strait, and the East China and Yellow Seas, searching for enemy activity. It had only one contact with Japanese vessels during this patrol. On August 12, the Argonaut sank a 25 ton vessel using its 20 and 40 millimeter guns. This was its only combat action during World War II. On August 21, the Argonaut’s patrol was terminated at Guam, the Japanese having surrendering just days earlier.
After the War
On September 1, the Argonaut departed for Portsmouth, arriving on October 4. In early 1946, the Argonaut was assigned to the Panama based Atlantic Fleet. Later that year, it was reassigned as part of the New London, Connecticut based Submarine Squadron 2.
In July 1952, the Argonaut received a new snorkel system and its conning tower was streamlined, giving it greater underwater endurance. It remained based in New London until July 1955, and then was reassigned to the Norfolk based Submarine Squadron 6, after which it was converted and armed with the Regulus I guided missile system.
In 1958, based in San Juan, Puerto Rico, it engaged in missile operations. In 1959, it was again in Norfolk. The following year, the Argonaut returned to antisubmarine warfare training operations, its missile systems having been removed during an overhaul.
In October 1962, the Argonaut assisted with the naval quarantine of Cuba, then after 7 months and an overhaul, it was back to New London for refresher training. On August 19, 1963 it was sent to join the 6th fleet in the Mediterranean where it remained on routine operations between the east coast and the Mediterranean until December 1965. Its next assignment was at the submarine school in New London until 1966.
The Argonaut continued routine operations through 1968 until it was decommissioned on December 2, 1968, its name struck from the Navy list that day.
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.