USS Escolar SS-294 (1944)
The USS Escolar was a Balao-class submarine and was the only Navu ship to be named for the escolar, a predatory fish of the open ocean. The Escolar was first laid down by the Cramp Shipbuilding Company in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. She was launched in April 1943 and sponsored by Mrs. J. Bilisoly Hudgins. Following her launch, Escolar was first transferred to the Boston Navy Yard, and then to the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard before being commissioned in June 1944.
After combat training at Pearl Harbor, Escolar was put on her first war patrol in September, joining the Croaker and Perch for a coordinated “wolfpack” patrol of the Yellow Sea. Commander W. J. Millican was in command, leading the coordinated attack group.
Lost at Sea
On September 30, 1944, Escolar was forced to cut off communication to nearby listening posts after being fired upon by an unnamed gunboat. Bases had received only a short transmission that the Escolar had come under attack and then heard nothing from her after. Perch and Croaker continued to receive recorded intra-ship communications with the sub until October 17th. The Escolar was never heard from again, with all attempts at contacting her failing. On November 27, 1944 Escolar was reported as being presumed lost.
War time Japanese records consulted after the hostilities show no anti-submarine action at the location or area where Escolar is believed to have been, thus giving no clues as to the cause of her loss. Some believe the Yellow Sea was mined, despite her transmitted course not crossing any known mine fields. However, because her positions are not exactly known it is assumed that the submarine was detonated with all hands lost.
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.