USS Cuttlefish SS-171 (1934-1946)

One of nine V-boat submarines built between the two World Wars, the USS Cuttlefish SS-171 was a Cachalot-class sub built by the Electric Boat Company of Groton, Connecticut.  She was launched on November 21, 1933, and commissioned in June of 1934, commanded by Lieutenant Commander Charles W. Styler.

Between the Wars

In her first years of service, the Cuttlefish participated in torpedo practice and fleet tactics off the shores of the U.S. West Coast and Hawaii, though she returned to the East Coast in 1937 by way of the Panama Canal.  At New London, Connecticut, she was part of training exercises at the Submarine School, and she continued these training activities at Coco Solo in the Panama Canal Zone.  In October of 1941, on the eve of America’s entrance into World War II, the Cuttlefish received an overhaul at Mare Island Navy Yard in California.

Action in World War II

The Cuttlefish’s first war patrol began on January 29, 1942, and took her to Marcus Island, the Bonin Islands, and Midway Island, where she refitted before returning to Pearl Harbor.  On her second patrol near Saipan and the northern Mariana Islands, she attacked a patrol ship and later narrowly avoided two bombs from an enemy plane.  Her third patrol, under the auspices of Lieutenant Commander Elliot E. Marshall, took her to the Japanese home islands, where she attacked a destroyer, a freighter, and an escort ship.  It is believed that she also sunk a tanker.

After the War

After returning to Pearl Harbor on September 20, 1942, the USS Cuttlefish was sent back to New London to continue training at the Submarine School.  She was decommissioned on October 34, 1945, and sold for scrap nearly two years later.  For her service in the war, she received one battle star.

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. Reference: Naval Historical Center