USS Balao SS-285 (1943-1963)
The USS Balao is the first of a large class of submarines and was constructed in the Portsmouth Navy Yard. She was first launched in the middle of WWII and completed her work up in New London before being sent to the Pacific Ocean for campaigns against the Japanese.
Action in World War II
She would have three war patrols in waters between Caroline and Bismarck islands. However, she does not have any sinkings credited for this time. However, an attack on an enemy convoy resulted in a wartime credit, but not a post-war review.
Her fourth patrol ended with her heading to Pearl Harbor, and on the way, she sank three Japanese merchant ships even though she had trouble with her torpedoes. The submarine would launch two more patrols from Pearl Harbor and would sink another trawler and rescue downed pilots. After completing these two patrols, she was sent she was sent to California to be overhauled. During her seventh patrol she participated in a mini wolf pack with two other submarines and sank one Japanese ship.
During her eighth patrol off of China she would sink two more ships and a trawler again. Her last to combat cruises produced no major sinkings, but did result with her saving more pilots who were shot down. At the end of the war the Balao was sent back to the East coast and was decommissioned a year later as part of the Atlantic Reserve Fleet.
After the War
She would become active again in March of 1952 for the Cold War. She was sent to Key West as a training support ship and on experimental duty. For the next decade she made stops in Southern ports while serving as a target for anti-submarine forces. In 1957 she made a cruise to South America to participate in local war games. She even starred in the movie “Operation Petticoat” as the pink submarine. In 1960 she was reclassified and would continue being a training ship until being deployed to the Mediterranean in 1962. She was at sea during the Cuban Missile crisis. She would be decommissioned in 1963 and sunk later that year as a target.
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.