A Balao-class submarine, the USS Devilfish SS-292 was built by Cramp Shipbuilding Co. of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and launched on May 30, 1943. When the submarine was commissioned on September 1, 1944, Commander Edward Clark Stephen was placed in command. A diesel-electric submarine, the Devilfish was capable of staying fully submerged for 48 hours and completing patrols of up to 75 days. Her complement included 10 officers and 70-enlisted men.
Service in World War II
The Devilfish began her service in Key West, running training exercises at the Fleet Sonar School. From there, she was sent to Pearl Harbor, and then on to Saipan for her first war patrol, acting as a lifeguard for Army pilots bombing the Japanese island of Shikoku. On the way to her second patrol, the Devilfish was hit by a kamikaze plane, causing serious structural damage. She had to return to Pearl Harbor for repairs.
Her third patrol took her near northern Honshu, where, in June of 1945, she attacked an enemy submarine and escort ship. She once again performed lifeguard duty, this time for Allied forces invading Okinawa. After a refit in Guam, the Devilfish went on a final war patrol to the Nanpo Islands, lifeguarding for the 3rdFleet and bombarding Tori Shima. When the war ended, she was sent back to San Francisco by way of Midway.
After the War
The Devilfish was first placed in reserve in commission, then reserve out of commission. As part of the Pacific Reserve Fleet, she was redesignated AGSS-292. On March 1, 1967, her name was taken out of the Naval Register, and a little more than a year later, she was sunk as a target by the USS Wahoo in the waters off of San Francisco. Overall, she was award three battle stars for her service in World War II.
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.