Gato-class submarine the USS Darter was launched from Groton, Connecticut, on June 6, 1943, and commissioned later that year on September 7 with Commander William S. “Gin” Stovall, Jr., in charge. She immediately set out for Pearl Harbor to join the Pacific front of the war.
Action in World War II
The Darter began her first war patrol on December 21. The sub torpedoed a large enemy ship, but was subsequently attacked by the ship’s escorts, necessitating repairs. However, she was able to finish this patrol and begin a second in March of 1944. She sank a cargo ship at the end of that month and then stopped at Manus Island for a refit. Her third war patrol took her to the eastern Philippines and the Maluku Islands, where she sank a Japanese mine-laying ship called the Tsugaru.
After her fourth patrol, the Darter accompanied the USS Dace to the South China Sea in preparation for the incipient attack on Leyte. After attacking a tanker convoy, the two submarines encountered the Japanese Center Force on its way to Leyte, radioing this information back to headquarters. After this, the two subs began attacking the Center Force, the Darter taking out one heavy cruiser and severely damaging another.
Destruction at Bombay Shoal
While pursuing the damaged cruiser through Palawan Passage in the early morning hours of October 23, 1944, the Darter ran aground on Bombay Shoal. The crews of both the Dace and the Darter were unable to get the sub back into the water, so the Darter’s confidential papers and equipment were destroyed, her crew transferred to the Dace, and her hulk eventually demolished by the guns of the USS Nautilus.
For her heroic efforts, the Darter was awarded a Navy Unit Commendation as well as four battle stars. During her four patrols, she sank a total of 19,741 tons of Japanese shipping. Her crew as a whole took over the USS Menhaden, a submarine that was, at the time, being built in Manitowoc, Wisconsin.
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.