The USS Dragonet was a Balao-class submarine, which is the largest class of submarines in the United States Navy. The sub was launched in April of 1943 by the Cramp Shipbuilding Company out of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. She was commissioned on March 6, 1944, sponsored by Mrs. J. E. Gingrich, and had Commander Jack Hayden Lewis in command.
World War II
Dragonet reached Pearl Harbor by way of new London in October 1944 and was put on her first war patrol on November 1st. Her destination for that patrol was supposed to be the Kurile Islands and the Sea of Okhotsk, however, on December 15th, while submerged south of Matsuwa, Dragonet struck an uncharted submerged pinnacle, causing a hole to form in the pressure hull of her forward torpedo room. The space flooded to the point that the crew had to blow water out of the compartment with compressed air if they wished to surface the submarine. Surfacing posed another threat as Dragonet was only four miles from the airfield on Matsuwa, and surfacing there would pose certain threats. Left with no other option the sub was able to surface and cleared the danger area as quickly as possible. All of these events compounded pressure on the vessel causing her bow planes to become rigged out. Re-rigging them required entering the flooded compartment. It took the crew two days of running through a storm in order to reach Midway so that the vessel could undergo emergency repairs.
The Dragonet returned to Pearl Harbor in April of 1945 after an overhaul at Mare Island Naval Shipyard in Vallejo, California. She proceeded to her next patrol which was lifeguard duty south of the Japanese home islands, where she rescued four downed Army aviators.
Dragonet’s third war patrol occurred between July 8, 1945 and August 17th, and included a combination of lifeguard duty and offensive against Japanese shipping in Bungo Suido. This time was a late stage in the war, and the Japanese merchant marine offered few targets at this time. Shortly after Dragonet put in at Saipan, and at the close of the war sailed toward Pearl Harbor and San Francisco.
In April of 1946 Dragonet was decommissioned and placed in reserve at Mare Island, laid up in the Pacific Reserve Fleet. On June 1, 1961 she was sunk by an explosive test in Chesapeake Bay and struck from the Naval Register.
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.