USS Dorado SS-248 (1943)
Built by the Electric Boat Company of Groton, Connecticut, the USS Dorado SS-248 was fated to serve in the U.S. Navy for less than two months. Though she was launched on May 23, 1943, she was not commissioned until August and put under the command of Lieutenant Commander Earle Caffrey Schneider.
Disappearance at Sea
On October 6, 1943, the Dorado was deemed ready for battle and set out from New London, Connecticut for the Panama Canal. However, a patrol bomber flying boat that was supposed to be providing air coverage to the area received an incorrect description of the restricted bombing zone, and on the night of October 12, fired on an unidentified submarine. About two hours later, the plane’s crew attempted to contact a second submarine, which fired on the plane.
The Dorado was never heard from again. Air searches over the next few days found debris and oil slicks, but it was later determined that these were unlikely to have come from the Dorado. The crew of the patrol bomber maintained that the two submarines had been U-boats, and that they had specifically determined neither of them was the Dorado. An examination of German records shows that the second submarine was undoubtedly the U-214; the first one may have been the U-518, but its logs show no record of an attack. It is possible that the Dorado was sunk by mines laid by the U-214.
The Syneca Research Group has studied the events surrounding the Dorado’s disappearance and claims that even before her final journey, the sub was plagued with technical problems, including a fire, an underwater grounding, and difficulty diving. Additionally, there are reports of pilots from the 1970s using an abandoned submarine conning tower as a visual landmark, though it is now covered over by sand. The Group suggested that bombing may have killed the Dorado’s crew, but due to problems with diving, the sub remained afloat and drifted to its final resting place off the Mexico coast. Until her remains are found and identified, the fate of the Dorado will remain a mystery.
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.