The Catfish SS-319, a 311-foot Balao-class diesel-electric submarine, was constructed by the Electric Boat Company of Groton, Connecticut. She was laid down in January of 1944 and launched that November, seeing commissioning on March 19, 1945. She was sponsored by Mrs. J. J. Crowley and commanded by Lieutenant Commander W. A. Overton, USNR.
Action in World War II
On May 4, 1945, the Catfish sailed from New London to Pearl Harbor, arriving June 29. She left for Guam after receiving training and new equipment to receive special training. She then left for her first war patrol on August 8, which was a special mission to locate a minefield off Kyushu. After the August 15 cease-fire, the submarine partook in surface patrol and lifeguard duty in the Yellow Sea.
After returning to Guam on September 4, the vessel sailed all the way back to Seattle, arriving there on September 29. Next based out of San Diego, the USS Catfish then operated locally on the west coast, making two cruises to the Far East to make simulated war patrols and provide services to the 7th fleet.
From August 1948 until May 1949, the Catfish underwent extensive modernization to receive greater submerged speed and endurance. When the Korean War broke out, the submarine was on another Far East cruise, allowing her to make a timely reconnaissance patrol to support United Nations forces in the area. Returning state side on October 20, 1950, the Catfish was again based at San Diego. She then carried out training exercises off the west coast with Naval Reservists, made several Far East cruises and operated with the Canadian Forces in antisubmarine warfare exercises.
After the War
Decommissioned, struck from the Naval Registry and transferred to Argentina on July 1, 1971, the Catfish was then renamed the ARAA Santa Fe. However, the 1982 Falklands War saw the Santa Fe receive heavy damage and capture by the British. As a result of this heavy damage, the vessel was scuttled. The USS Catfish received one battle star for her World War II service.
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.