Originally known as the Bocaccio, this Balao-class submarine was renamed the Charr on September 24, 1942. It was launched on May 28, 1944 by the Electric Boat Company of Groton, Connecticut. Sponsored by Mrs. W. F. Orkney, the vessel was commissioned on September 23, 1944 and commanded by Commander F. D. Boyle.
Action in World War II
The Charr reached Pearl Harbor December 9, 1944. By December 30, she was sailing on her first war patrol to the sea off the northeast coast of Indo-China. On January 29, 1945, the Charr took the risk of rescuing a downed aviator by sending two crewmen ashore on a rubber boat. During that rescue, the Charr was extremely vulnerable, lying at anchor during the day for four hours only one mile off the coast. At the end of that first war patrol, the Charr again took up a rescue mission, escorting the badly-damaged Dutch submarine, HNLMS Zwaardvisch, to Fremantle, Australia, which the two submarines reached on March 3, 1945.
Cruising in the Flores, Java, South China Seas, and the southern coast of Taiwan, the Charr embarked on her second war patrol after a refit. Initially sailing with Gabilan SS-252 and Besugo SS-321, she later embarked on a four-day chase of the Isuzu, a Japanese cruiser, and its three escorts. Only April 7, 1945, the Charr caught up with the vessel, sinking it with three torpedo hits. On April 10, 1945, only three days later, the submarine sank a coastal freighter with surface gunfire. After laying a minefield off Pulo Island on April 14 and 15, she reloaded torpedoes in Subic Bay and left to patrol Formosa, rescuing a downed pilot.
After a refit at Subic Bay, which lasted from May 21 to June 14, the Charr embarked on her third and final war patrol as she sailed the Gulf of Siam with three other submarines. Although targets were few at this late stage of the war, wolf pack did manage to corner a Japanese submarine. The Bluefish SS-222 sank the submarine.
After the War
After remaining at Fremantle, Australia from July 26 to August 29, 1945, the Charr sailed to Pearl Harbor for repairs and then to Guam for training, which lasted until January 30, 1946, when she reached her new home port of San Diego. Operating along the west coast, she also made simulated war patrols to the Far East during 1947 and 1948. She also carried members of the Naval Reserve on 2-week cruises on occasion and provided training assistance from 1949 through July 1951, when she went to Mare Island Naval Shipyard to have improvements made, which included conversions to streamline her appearance and receive a “Fleet Snorkel,” which allowed her to cruise underwater for greater distances.
On March 26, 1953, the Charr sailed to Korea to support United Nations forces by conducting patrols. On November 9, Chiang Kai Shek , the political and military leader of twentieth century China, took his first submarine cruise on the Charr. She then returned to the west coast to operate her normal schedule, not returning to the western Pacific again until March 1957. She then undertook exercises with the Canadian Navy in the fall of 1958, followed by preparing for a 1959 Far Eastern cruise, which spanned from May 6 to October 28. She then continued to operate as normal from San Diego.
Reclassified as an Auxiliary Submarines, AGSS-328, in 1966, the Charr was decommissioned on June 28, 1969. She was struck from the Naval Register in December 20, 1971 and sold for scrap the following August. The Charr received one battle star for her second war patrol, which was designated a success.
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.