USS Crevalle SS-291 (1943-1962)
A balao – class submarine, the Crevalle was named for the crevalle, the yellow mackerel food fish found on both coasts of America and in the Atlantic as far north as Cape Cod. She was launched February of 1943 by Portsmouth Navy Yard in Kittery, Maine. Mrs. C.W. Fisher sponsored the ship and Lieutenant Commander H. G Munson was in command.
Her first war patrol was in the Sulu and South China Seas. She sank a passenger – cargo ship of almost 7,000 tons and made two more attacks on merchant ships before returning to Australia for refit. Crevalle’s second war patrol was in the South China Sea from December of 1943 until February of the following year. She attacked a submerged Japanese submarine, laid mines off Saigon and on January 26th sunk a Japanese freighter.
On April 4th 1944 she set sail for her third war patrol and sank a freighter and an oiler before embarking on a special mission to the Negros Island in the Philippines. She rescued 40 refugees from the island including 28 women and children and 4 men who had survived the Bataan Death March.
On her fourth patrol, Crevalle joined in a 30 hour pursuit and attacked and eventually sunk a freighter and sunk an already crippled ship. Two days later she also inflicted heavy damage to another freighter.
After refitting at Fremantle she set sail for her fifth war patrol. Ten days in she surfaced after a routine trim dive. Bill Fritchen, one of the ship lookouts, along with Lieutenant Howard Blind went through the hatch. Fifteen seconds later the boat took a sharp down angle and submerged washing the lookout overboard. The strong flow of water entering through the upper hatch prevented anyone from closing it. Finally brining the submarine under control, the men were able to recover the lookout but could not find Lt. Howard Blind. It was concluded that Blind hung on the ship and sacrificed his life trying to unlatch the upper hatch, in turn saving the submarine. Posthumously, Blind received the Navy Cross for her heroic actions.
In her sixth patrol she cruised the East China Sea preparing for the Okinawa invasion and made a hazardous search for a minefield believed to be located near the Tsushima Straits. In May she sailed for her seventh mission in the Sea of Japan where she sank a freighter and inflicted damage on an escort ship.She began to head out once more but received work of the end of hostilities and returned to New York.
Post War Service
Crevalle took part in training, exercises and fleet operations along the East Coast and in the Caribbean until August 1955 when she was placed out of commission in reserve at New London.
She was reclassified as an Auxiliary Research Submarine AGSS-291 in 1960 and eas decommissioned March 9, 1962 and sold for scrap in March of 1971.
All of the war patrols were considered successful and she won four battle stars as well as recognition by the Navy Unit Commendation for distinguished performance of duty. She is credited with having sunk a total of 51, 814 tons of shipping and shared the credit for an additional 8,666 tons.
Asbestos and 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.