USS Chivo SS-341 (1945-1971)
This Balao-class diesel-electric submarine was constructed by the Electric Boat Company of Groton, Connecticut. The submarine was sponsored by Mrs. Raymond E. Baldwin, the wife of the governor of the Connecticut, and commanded by Lieutenant Commander William R. Crutcher, USNR. The submarine was commissioned on April 28, 1945.
Following shakedown, the Chivo left New London on June 7, 1945 for Key West. There she trained and exercised briefly before setting sail for Pearl Harbor with two other submarines. However, during her preparations for war patrol, hostilities ended and the vessel remained at this base to operate locally with other Pacific Fleet ships. She returned to the west coast in October as a member of Submarine Squadron Seven. She was based out of San Diego for local operations, which went until January 1946, when the submarine sailed for a short tour of duty where she operated out of Subic Bay in the Philippines. After returning in May, the Chivo spent the next 15 months exercising along the west coast, receiving an overhaul at Mare Island Naval Shipyard at the end.
Prompted by growing tensions in Asia, Chivo began a three-month simulated war patrol in August 1947, taking her to the Fiji Islands, Guam and Japan before arriving back at San Diego in November. Her west coast duty continued until 1949, when she was transferred to the Atlantic Fleet. Arriving at her new home port of Key West, Florida on 4 July 1949, she was made part of and Submarine Squadron Four. Providing training and services for Atlantic Fleet ships in intertype exercises until October 30, 1950, the submarine arrived at New London to begin an extensive Greater Underwater Propulsion Program (GUPPY 1-A) overhaul and modernization. Modifications included streamlining of the Chivo’s hull and the addition of a snorkel, allowing the diesel engine to operation at periscope depth and increasing overall battery power.
Returning to the Atlantic Fleet in July 1951 after modification, the Chivo resumed anti-submarine warfare training operations with surface ships, as well as maintaining skill in anti-shipping and mine warfare, which generally took place off Key West and Guantanamo Bay. She continued such drills until April 19, 1952, when she sailed for a short cruise to the Mediterranean for a short cruise, returning that June.
After arriving, she was assigned to Submarine Squadron Twelve, resuming her regular training routine with the Fleet Sonar School. However, she also made port visits to Havana, Cuba; Montego Bay, Jamaica; and Port au Prince, Haiti. Besides a three-month overhaul, the Chivo remained in the West Indies until October, when she operated off the Pacific coast of Colombia until May 1954, arriving via the Panama Canal. After a four-month regular overhaul at Charleston Naval Shipyard, she returned to Fleet Sonar School duty in September.
In March 1956, the submarine visited Gulfport, Mississippi and then New York City in August, which was out of its usual routine. She again underwent an overhaul in March after training reservists in Gulfport and a trip to Santiago de Cuba. She spent the rest of the decade alternative normal service with short trips north. In 1960 she received another overhaul at Charleston Naval Shipyard between March and September, which involved repairs and modifications that included a new sonar system. The rest of the year was spent mostly out of united States waters, as the submarine made cruises to St. Thomas, Virgin Islands; South Africa via Trinidad, British West Indies for Operation CAPEX-60; port visits to Simonstown, Port Elizabeth and Cape Town; and a return trip home via San Juan, Puerto Rico.
The early 1960s saw the submarine act as an “opposition force,” aiding ASW training exercises. During these exercises, the Chivo pretended to launch a ballistic missile at the United States, disrupted convoys and stayed undetected on trips throughout her operating area. In early 1965, the Chivo sailed to the Mediterranean to partake in training exercises with NATO forces off of Italy and Turkey. Arriving home on May 2, the Chivo spent the rest of the year engaged in her usual local training operations, including a specialized mine planting exercise. Early 1966 saw the vessel’s regular five-month overhaul followed by participation in the final weapons range acceptance tests for the Atlantic Undersea Test and Evaluation Center (AUTEC) in the Bahama Islands.
The submarine’s local operations continued into 1967, only broken in January 1968 when the submarine participated in destroyer-submarine Exercise Springboard I, a six-week exercise allowing Chivo to conduct forty-eight torpedo firings at surface and sub-surface targets. This greatly aided the skill of the fire control team. She then joined Search and Rescue operations for Scorpion. The Submarine continued to undergo regular training and repair in her normal region off the southeast coast of the United States and the Caribbean.
After returning to Charleston on April 28, 1970, the Chivo’s crew was decreased and the vessel was put in “non-operational” status. In February 1971, a service inspection determined the boat was unfit for further service. However, she conducted services and training until June 15, 1971, when Argentine Naval personnel arrived at Charleston to receive two weeks of underway training with Chivo’s crew. She was decommissioned, struck from the Navy list and sold to Argentine on July 1, 1971, serving that nation’s military until 1983.
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.