The USS Darter SS-576, the second U.S. Naval submarine to bear that name, was constructed in Groton, Connecticut, by the Electric Boat Division of General Dynamics Corporation. The submarine was launched on May 28, 1956, and commissioned on October 20 under the command of Lieutenant Ralph R. Blaine.
Service in the U.S. Navy
Though the Darter was based on the Tang class of submarines, but contained a variety of alterations and improvements to the design. As one example, she featured a three-man helmsman-planesman station with aircraft-like stick controls. She was propelled by diesel-electric power and could travel at a speed of 15.5 knots (17.8 miles per hour) on the surface and 16 knots (18 miles per hour) underwater. Her complement included 10 officer and 75 men.
During her service with the Navy, the Darter was ported out of Newport, Rhode Island, and Charleston, South Carolina. She performed training maneuvers along the U.S. East Coast, as well as off the shores of Canada and northern Europe. In the 1970s, she was deployed to San Diego, and from this port, she made four cruises of the West Pacific. In 1978, her head valve failed to close and she was forced to surface during an antisubmarine warfare exercise. A year later, she was sent to Sasebo, Japan, to act as a forward-deployed submarine.
In August of 1989, the Darter set out for Hawaii, making her final dive on September 26, and received her decommissioning at Pearl Harbor at the beginning of December. She was ultimately sunk as a target by the submarine USS Tautog.
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.